The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) has summarily reversed the United State Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) decision regarding United States v. Brantley. The reversal was based upon confused legal definitions and languages brought forth and maintained by the prosecution during trial procedures.
Defendant Mitchell L. Brantley was accused of allegedly touching an unaware victim in a sexual manner. The prosecution held that the victim was “asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware” at the time of the uninvited sexual touching. The defense created a challenge based upon the notion that sexually touching a sleeping victim creates a different criminal definition than compared to the same touching upon an unconscious victim; the same can be said of “otherwise unaware” victims. In the creation of three separate possible criminal scenarios through its vague description of alleged occurrences, the prosecution therefore did not establish that any one crime actually happened.
The CAAF agreed with the challenge. In citing both United States v. Sager and Article 120(b), it maintained that the prosecution had created three different and unique criminal theories, each one that could have led to conviction, but that a conviction could not be justly reached while all three were considered simultaneously or as one. Due to the insufficiency creating by the prosecution’s own descriptions, the case has been remanded. It will require new review for validity.
The CAAF decision represents an interesting cornerstone in military criminal law, and perhaps criminal defense cases outside of the military as well. In describing a criminal act and bringing it forth to charges and then conviction, there is a burden on the prosecution to use correct and precise language, a burden equivalent to its own burden to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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