Is the Lawyer in Your Corner Actually in Your Corner?
Finding the right Defense Counsel is one of the most frightening and perplexing challenges facing any Service Member accused of an offense under the UCMJ.
Over the years, Service Members have been systematically left in the dark about the most effective advocates available to them: Specialized Civilian Criminal Defense
Attorneys and Individual Military Counsel.
Both Civilian Criminal Defense Attorneys and the Service JAG Corps have powerful incentives to maintain a system in which individual Service Members are powerless. The Service Member has been left on his own, with the stigma of being accused of his crime a further impediment to getting a fair chance to defend himself.
In the Military, Accusation is usually equated with Conviction.
--> Civilian Defense Lawyers
have traditionally held most of the cards: they have more information than often-terrified and always less-sophisticated Accused Service Members, they are not at risk of their freedom and livelihood, and they are infinitely more familiar with the system. This gives them leverage over Accused Service Members and enables Civilian Defense Lawyers to extract the maximum value from Service Member Clients with the minimum risk of exposure or complaint.
--> The Service JAG Corps
required under the UCMJ to offer Judge Advocates as Detailed Defense Counsel to every Accused Service Member, they see "too many" acquittals as undermining good order and discipline. The Service JAG Corps priorities (to preserve their power and influence over all legal matters) conflict with the interests of the Accused Service Members and Commanders (ensuring fair trials occur). JAG Corps leaders are especially wary of public opinion, and use their positions of trust and confidence with Commanders to sometimes sway Commanders in their decisions concerning case disposition. Public relations and political factors become more important than dispassionate justice and technical excellence.
An example of a conflict of interest that has hamstrung the Services is the management of allegations of sex crimes in the ranks. At the prodding of a handful of activist members of Congress, over the past 20 years Military Law has become progressively more hostile to Service Members (almost always young and male, and frequently minority) against whom sexual allegations (almost always involving alcohol and "date rape") are made. The JAG Corps -- interested in stability and the status quo -- have consciously acted to inculcat a culture of conformity in the ranks. At the same time, Service JAG bureaucracies have turned a blind eye toward the progressive degradation of Military Justice.
--> Senior Commanders
are manipulated to believe they will be singled out by irate, militant Senators during confirmation hearings for higher rank, so they heed advice of their Staff Judge Advocates to "let the panel [the military jury] sort it out."
All of these malfunctions combine to result in spurious cases going forward to trial, where the military has further imbalanced Military Justice by creating "Special Victim Prosecutors" and "Victim Advocates." An entire "sexual victim support" cottage industry has sprung up on Military Installations throughout the world, encouraging baseless prosecutions and inventing an ever-expanding pool of "victims." "87% of all allegations of sexual assault are true," claims one frequently cited statistic inflicted on service members during mandatory "sexual assault awareness" training, mandated for all Service Members. One Navy Commander (O-5) Psychiatrist has testified at Court-Martial that "absence of reporting" of sexual assault proves that sexual assault happened, since women who are sexually assaulted "tend not to report it."
The Service JAG Corps have used their influence to alter the Military Rules of Evidence to silence Defendants and prevent them from fairly trying their cases. Under Military Rule of Evidence 412, victims who claim to have been sexually mistreated -- with no supporting evidence required other than their claim -- enjoy unprecedented power over court proceedings. Public Trials are closed and made secret to protect claimed victim's "privacy." The Rule is also used to prevent relevant evidence of the "victim's" sexual history from being used by Accused Service Members to defend themselves.
Sexual Assault Registration Laws have given another powerful tool to Military lawyers to bludgeoning innocent Service Members into pleading guilty to imaginary crimes. Many Service Members dare not contest the most absurd allegations of sexual misconduct for fear of the automatic life sentence as a "Registered Sex Offender." Under the law, a Sex Offender can be someone who grabbed the buttocks of another Service Member or a 18-year-old Service Member who had sex with her 15-year-old boyfriend.
In the meantime, the Service JAG Corps have systematically undermined, understaffed, and under-resourced their Criminal Defense Organizations to ensure an "acceptable" level of convictions. Meant to mollify the most extreme and hysterical critics of the Military Services, this has only diminished morale in the ranks. Military suicides are rampant, and yet no one has bothered to explore the simple connection between maltreatment of Service Members under the guise of "law" and their hopelessness.
The Service JAG Corps see their Criminal Defense Organizations as training grounds for "more important" jobs and that young, inexperienced Detailed Military Counsel can gain valuable experience trying the most difficult, technically demanding cases. The ultimate brass ring is becoming Judge Advocate General and ruling over an impregnable and unaccountable fiefdom of lawyers. This is corruption in its basest form.
The Innocent Warrior Project has never argued that there is no crime in the Military, or that guilty Service Members should avoid the full consequences of their actions. Instead, the Innocent Warrior Project was created to restore balance to the Military Justice system, which the Service JAG Corps have undermined while advancing their own interests and to mollify militant, extremist politicians who despise the virtues the military stands for.
The Innocent Warrior Project believes that the UCMJ, as promulgated by Congress, provides an ideal balance between Prosecution and Defense. We also believe the system has been hollowed from within. Only the brave - and career-ending -- dedication of individual Judge Advocates has kept the bleeding from becoming catastrophic.
Innocent Service Members -- people who have risked their lives for America -- are having their lives destroyed because JAG bureaucrats are too busy fathering their own nests. The Rules for Court-Martial, the Military Rules of Evidence, and the Regulations governing Military Justice -- promulgated at the behest of the Service JAG Corps in order to satisfy their priorities -- are dangerously imbalanced.
The Innocent Warrior Project believe it is only through (1) fair and balanced rules governing courts-martial, (2) competent counsel in both the Prosecution and Defense, (3) objective and fair Military Judges, and (4) resolute Military Juries that the Truth-seeking goals of Courts-Martial can be achieved. In the present day, the only one of those four factors functioning properly is the fourth.
Our Service Members deserve better, and the Innocent Warrior Project was created to fight for them.
By opposing the Service JAG Corps bureaucrats when they seek to undermine Accused Service Members rights to fair Courts-Martial, the Innocent Warrior Project seeks to live up to its mission "to encourage and assist the Services' JAG Corps in honoring the rule of law and obeying their own rules."