Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The dogged pursuit of justice

United States v. Greatting, __ M.J. __, No. 07-0575 (C.A.A.F. May 6, 2008), is a typical military-working-dog-paperwork-falsification-non-military-working-dog-kenneling-canine-injury conspiracy case. Staff Sergeant Greatting was one of five Marines involved in the conspiracy.

All four of the other Marines were tried before SSgt Greatting. After one of the Marines was tried, the military justice in SSgt Greatting's case -- Colonel Chester-- had a discussion with the SJA and possibly the SJA's deputy during which Col Chester opined that the Marine's PTA had been too generous. He also commented about the forum selection for the other Marines involved in the conspiracy. Col Chester revealed this conversation during voir dire in SSgt Greatting's case. The defense then challenged him for implied bias. Col Chester denied the motion and sat on the case, which was a dive.

Voting 4-1, CAAF reversed, finding implied bias and emphasizing that it was not finding actual bias. Judge Erdmann wrote for the majority and Judge Stucky dissented. The majority reasoned:

In an ex parte conversation with the SJA, Judge C criticized the manner in which the convening authority was handling the K-9 Section defendants, while Greatting's case was pending and before the convening authority had considered clemency in any of the cases. Such interference by a judicial officer into matters entirely within the discretion of the convening authority is not only inappropriate, it gives the appearance that Judge C was aligned with the Government. This infringement was exacerbated when Judge C subsequently assigned himself to the Greatting case after he had commented on Greatting's potential culpability.
Greatting, slip op. at 16 (footnote omitted).

And in an anomaly that Sierra Delta noted in a comment to a previous post, while the opinion consistently refers to Col Chester as "Judge C," the opinion's cover sheet identifies the military judge as "R. S. Chester."


Anonymous said...

The Marine trifecta of embarrassing judicial choices is now complete: Bill Hollerich, Rodger Harris, and Bob Chester.

Of course, the other services are not immune: the Navy has John Maksym and the Air Force had Jeremiah Mahoney.

Anonymous said...

Was that part of military justice discourse or just a personal attack on people? Regardless, it's marginalized. Maybe CAAFlog should follow the lead from SCOTUSblog regarding comments...