REVERSAL OF U.S. V. HENDRIX CONVICTION
June 2, 2017
In the Army case of United States v. Hendrix, the court initially decided to convict Specialist (E-4) Austin L. Hendrix of one specification of sexual abuse of a child. However, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) concluded a voice lineup was so flawed it rendered the result meaningless. The admission of evidence of the lineup caused prejudice in favor of the prosecution. CAAF decided to reverse the appellant’s conviction and authorized a rehearing.
The charge originally involved an allegation by a ten-year-old girl that she was sexually assaulted by Hendrix when he touched her over her pants. However, her story was unclear, and DNA analysis turned out to be inconclusive. Hendrix was a family friend who was staying in her home on the night in question. The girl eventually identified him as the perpetrator by eliminating the other people in the house as suspects. However, an Article 32 pretrial investigation concluded there were no reasonable grounds to believe Hendrix committed the crime.
After the investigation, government counsel requested a voice lineup be conducted. A voice lineup is an out-of-court identification of a voice using a series of recorded samples of speech. Various people record samples, including the suspect, and they are all played for the witness, who attempts to identify the voice he or she heard during the crime. It is similar to an eyewitness lineup and is equally applicable in court.
According to Judge Ohlson. The voice lineup was flawed in several ways. The defense also objected to its admission and attempted to seek funding for an expert consultant, but the objection was overruled, and the request denied. The prosecution then introduced the voice lineup through three witnesses, including the accuser, her father, and a criminal investigator. Her father indicated no one influenced her identification, while the criminal investigator confirmed she was confident in her choice.
In investigating the voice lineup, the judge specified three flaws in its use. The first was that the lineup should have had individuals with similar voices but did not. The second was that CID had the people who provided the sentences speak two at a whisper and repeat them at two increasingly louder volumes in the same sound bite. However, the record didn’t reflect any legitimate purpose for this methodology in the investigation. Last, during the motions hearing, the voice expert raised a number of concerns about the voice lineup employed. These concerns led to his unrebutted opinion that the voice lineup was unreliable.
In addition, Judge Ohlson brought the court’s attention to prejudice, where the weakness of the prosecution’s case against Hendrix was the deciding factor. He believed the case was feebly argued in regards to whether or not the event occurred and whether or not Hendrix was actually the perpetrator.
The retrial seems to indicate a wholesale rejection of the published opinion of the Army CCA, including of the CCA’s fact finding, evidenced by the fact that the military judge resolved both issues against the defense without making findings of fact or conclusions of law. For a case with such inconclusive evidence against the accused, the judge should have made findings and conclusions and made them comprehensive.
Attorney Joseph L. Jordan continuously follows the latest news in court decisions, particularly those regarding child sex assault crimes. His firm has developed a reputation for consistent success representing those accused of such allegations. Attorney Jordan also believes in staying abreast of the latest legal developments in his field. Any military service members who have been charged with crimes and who must face a trial by court-martial should rely on Attorney Jordan for his extensive experience, skill, and hard-hitting legal representation. Service members at home and abroad can depend on him for the most complex defense cases. He has represented military service members in multiple types of military defense cases. If you are on active duty or are a retired military service member, you can count on him to protect you, your reputation, your rights, your rank, and your freedom. Contact his firm at (866) 361-4723 or fill out the website’s online form for additional information or to begin a case.