Oh man, has it really been that long since I last posted on this blog? I feel like I need to go to confession – “Forgive me father for I have sinned, it has been eight months since my last blog post….” But enough about that, instead, let’s start with some success – in the Air Force. Last summer I had a client charged with rape in Twin Falls, but he wasn’t guilty and the prosecutor eventually DISMISSED the case and publicly proclaimed his innocence. Not a bad result considering how difficult it is to get anyone to believe a “victim” would never make up such a story. The truth is they sometimes do make it up. So off we go to an Air Force case in which three women claim to have been sexually assaulted by our client. As we prepared to go to trial last September, we discovered that there might have been video recorded evidence on a phone the Government lab had not been able to fully process. That caused a big time out, and reset the case for trial into February. Another forensic lab located the video and audio that PROVED our client was telling the truth – the sexual contact with V1 was in fact consensual. That charge was dismissed, but we still faced trial on two other “victims.” Over the course of a week long trial, V2 testified in a way that made admission of prior sexual acts with other unit members admissible. This contradicted her testimony and made her look dishonest. V3 had prior sexual encounters with our client, and her testimony that this time was not consented was countered by other witness testimony substantiating our client’s claims. Result? Not guilty on all counts.
But more important than results, here’s what I learned:
First – sometimes, you have to be willing to just keep digging into the discovery for some gold nugget that will save your client’s bacon. That video on the cell phone was just the thing to prove our client had told the truth about V1, and it made an impact on the prosecutor and the judge.
Second – I actually like to put my client on the stand in sex cases because no matter what the judge instructs, the failure to testify usually is seen as “proof” of guilt by jurors. They say “if I had been charged, I would have testified….” Of course, there are many reasons for a person to remain silent, but most of the time in cases like this, your client needs to tell the jurors his or her story.
Third – Fear not the courts-martial! Military justice works a bit differently but the people involved – trial counsel and judges – are well trained and experienced. Mostly. In truth, the local JAGs do not always have great experience in the Air Force system because they have so few cases. Instead, they rely on more experienced trial and defense counsel who fly in and try their cases. The judges are well educated, know and understand the law, and are equal in every way to their civilian counterparts.
More later. Phone is ringing and I need to prepare for the next trial – featuring the National Forest Service, an Assistant United States Attorney, and a professional snowmobile instructor who has run afoul of those governmental regulations that seemingly keep Americans off the very lands we all hold as owners.