Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Two new published CCA opinions

ACCA issued an opinion today that might be captioned, "How to go from losing a stripe to a federal conviction and a BCD," or "SFC Williams' very bad decision." United States v. Williams, __ M.J. ___, No. ARMY 20040760 (A. Ct. Crim. App. 11 April 2007).

Williams is an extremely interesting case arising in Iraq. According to ACCA's presentation of the facts, SFC Williams was a very bad actor in the armed robbery of an Iraqi's POV, which was later offered up as tribute to his platoon leader. For his misdeeds, he was originally offered a summary court-martial, but there was apparently a disconnect between the prosecution's and defense's understanding of the particulars of the deal. Rather than doing whatever the government wanted in exchange for going to an SCM for armed robbery, Williams insisted on pleading not guilty at the summary. The result was that he got to plead not guilty at a GCM instead. Bad career move. The GCM convicted and kicked him.

The issue in Williams is whether the government withdrew the case from the SCM for an improper reason. ACCA's answer: not even close.

United States v. Fujiwara, __ M.J. ___, No. ACM 36124 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. 11 April 2006), involves an Air Force captain convicted of, among many other bad acts, two rapes. The central issue on appeal is whether the government violated the RCM 707 120-day clock. In the first key subissue, the Air Force Court held that even if Capt Fujiwara's commander had directed that he not leave Valdosta, Georgia, that wouldn't be a sufficiently severe form of restraint to start the 120-day clock ticking. The Air Force Court also applied CAAF's decision in United States v. Lazauskas, 62 M.J. 39 (C.A.A.F. 2005), to hold that delay granted by the Article 32 IO was excluded from the 120-day clock.

1 comment:

John O'Connor said...

On Williams, I wonder if Williams and his defense counsel thought they had pulled a fast one on the TC by getting the case referred to a SCM without having an explicit meeting of the minds that the accused would plead guilty. I didn't see reference to an IAC claim here, so maybe not.

If so, however, the lesson, as always, is that the military justice system generally doesn't reward sharp practice and parlor tricks like that.