Whether in War or in a Criminal trial, you never want the power of the
United States Government turning its attention on you. An issue has been
percolating in my mind for that last few years: “Is the American
Military Justice really interested in fairness?” Recent events have
demonstrated to me a stark imbalance: the immense power the government
counsel wields versus the complete unfairness a uniformed defendant suffers
in the court-martial process.
Several weeks ago I tried a sexual assault case at Fort Hood, Texas. It
was apparent at this trial the sheer power and weight that the government
has in the court-martial process. The cards truly are stacked against
you. First, there were three attorneys sitting at the government table.
Second, two of the attorneys had, at least, three paralegals running around
doing their bidding over the course of the trial. Third, one of the attorneys
was a Special Victim Prosecutor, appointed to oversee, and even try U.S.
Army sexual assault cases in the Fort Hood area. Fourth, to add fuel to
the fire, each alleged victim had his or her own counsel. Total there
were five government/prosecuting attorneys and six government/prosecuting
paralegals. At the defense table, I had my client, the appointed military
defense attorney and myself. Five attorneys versus two attorneys…
does not appear fair does it?
Suffice it to say, we, the team of two not five, were able to achieve victory
on the most important of charges in this case. However, the power of the
government still looms. The government’s power is staggering. Currently,
as of the date of this writing, there are roughly 34 trial counsels assigned
to Fort Hood. Trial counsel is the military term for prosecutor. They
advise commanders on military justice, and turn around and execute it
in the courtroom. Each of those trial counsel has at least three to four
paralegals apiece providing them assistance as needed. On the other side
of the spectrum is Trial Defense Services at Fort Hood. For a base of
roughly 60,000 Soldiers, Fort Hood has only seven trial defense attorneys.
Those seven attorneys share only four paralegals. The TDS attorneys don’t
even have their own paralegal! They have to share! Add to that the reality
of special victim counsel for each alleged victim of a sexual crime. The
Army, especially at Fort Hood, is interested in one thing: convictions.
In simplest terms, in terms of this article, justice is a fair and impartial trial.
Click here to learn more about the benefits of hiring a military criminal
Now, let’s break that down a bit. The trial itself is every attorney’s
15 minutes of glory. The real work is done prior to trial. The attorney’s
and their staff do the real work. At Fort Hood and other bases, justice
is thrown out the window as evidenced by the manpower dedicated to the
concept. As you can see, at Fort Hood and almost any other military installation,
the odds are not in your favor. Once again not really fair, is it?
Another example from a different branch of service is, last week we tried
a case at Ramstein Air Force Base; we won. The power and might of the
government were still just as evident. For instance, I walked into the
Senior Trial Counsel’s office to hand off some documents. I was
met by two attorneys, three OSI agents, two experts and a paralegal. Eight
folks packed in a room doing nothing but discussing the prospective demise
of my client. What a spectacle.
In my mind, it again reinforced the might and power of the government prosecuting
its service members in an unfair and non-impartial manner. You might ask
yourself why? One, if the defense wants an expert investigator appointed
to his team, he has to request it. In all my years of litigating, I have
only had that granted by a convening authority once. Normally, as in this
case, my client has to foot the expense of hiring a private investigator
to dig into the case. The taxpayer funds the government’s investigation;
the accused has to fund his investigation on his own. Not fair is it?
What is clear is that the system is not geared for fairness internally
within the services. Thankfully, the system does allow service members
to have the opportunity to seek private civilian defense counsel. In the
face of such power, it is highly advisable to do so. Here are a few reasons why:
One, you want a counsel who is experienced and understands the Uniform
Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). They need to be battle-tested in the
courtroom; have more than several trials under their belt. They need to
be well-versed in military law. They need to know how to use the law to
the advantage of their client. You need someone who can think strategically,
but who is flexible in their tactics once they are in court. Strategic
and tactical proficiency in the courtroom only comes with the kind of
experience you will find with specialized civilian defense counsel.
Two, you want someone from the outside. U.S. Army Trial Defense Counsel
and U.S Air Force Area Defense Counsel are usually good attorneys; however,
they are still part of the military establishment. They are not interested
in making too many waves. They have to think about their career in uniform.
Additionally, they are usually only in the defense counsel position for
two years. By the time they learn what they are doing, they are off to
do some other legal job for their prospective service, which is generally
in some way or fashion assisting the government to prosecute its service
members. Civilian defense counsels, like myself, care nothing for military
politics. My duty is to you, the client. That is it.
Three, you want a counsel who has resources and knows how to obtain resources
in order to properly defend you. We are accustomed to working with a variety
of experts to properly defend our clients who are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen,
Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
Four, you want counsel that thinks outside the box. I am not a conventional
thinker. I cannot afford to be. We examine all angles of a case to determine
the best way to defend you. Hiring a civilian defense counsel, like myself,
evens the playing field. Not in numbers, but by experience, knowledge,
and resources. Now this seems more fair, right?
Unfortunately, the military justice system does not appear to be interested
in fair administration of justice. Experienced, aggressive, and resourceful
civilian defense counsel can and do balance the scales. We make the military
justice system as fair as possible for you.
If you are a member of the U.S. armed forces and have been accused of a
crime, ensure that your rights and reputation is protected. Call the firm of
Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law today to request a
free case evaluation.