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Pentagon Proposes First Changes to UCMJ in 30 Years


RV_

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Having served several times as a Bailiff for Military Courts Martial I think these changes are long overdue and I've been retired 18 years! However, they don't go nearly far enough.

 

From military.com

 

Excerpt:

 

"The Pentagon has proposed significant changes to how troops are tried and sentenced, two years after a comprehensive review of the military justice system was ordered by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the wake of persistent sexual assault controversies.

 

The changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice are the first proposed by the Pentagon in 30 years, after years of Congress mandating change, and would also make the system more transparent to public view.

 

The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to be briefed on the proposed guidelines in the next few weeks.

 

For decades, the military's unique sentencing procedures have required untrained military jurors to decide guilt or innocence as well as impose sentences upon conviction. In most military crimes, there were no minimum sentences, and legally allowed maximum punishment could include life in prison. Under the Pentagon proposal, military judges in all cases would decide sentences based on U.S. Department of Justice guidelines.

 

Judges have always decided sentences in bench trials.

 

Moreover, a number of crimes that have been tried under the catch-all Article 134 would be set out independently, perhaps with articles being added to the UCMJ. That means that prosecutors would no longer have to prove that a crime such as kidnapping was service-discrediting.

 

All convicted service members also would have the right to appeal, under the changes, and military court documents such as judicial rulings -- now accessible to the public only through Freedom of Information Act requests -- would be filed in a public system as they are in federal courts.

 

"In Federal Court, anybody may look up a case and view pleadings in current cases. The military trial courts should have a similar system where the public could view motions," said Kyle Fischer, a former Army lawyer now in private practice.

 

Fischer said the move would benefit not just the public but also people he says are falsely accused.

 

"Nobody knows about those frivolous cases except for the client, the panel, the attorneys in the case, and the military judge," he said. "If we are going to raise awareness of problem of the falsely accused being tried on frivolous charges, then allowing the press access to these proceedings should be a concern."

 

The changes make sense and are long overdue, experts said.

 

"There's a lot of good stuff in this bill," said retired Air Force former top prosecutor Don Christensen, now president of Protect Our Defenders, the sexual-assault victim advocacy group. "But the fact is that we lived with this insane sentencing process for so many years and the generals never said it made no sense."

 

Christensen said that the proposal was an effort to abort even more sweeping changes, in particular stripping the chain of command from its prosecutorial and judicial role in the military justice system.

 

The proposed legislation would leave military commanders to still determine which cases go to court-martial, what charges will be brought against a defendant, whether to cut a deal, and whether to grant clemency after conviction.

 

"DoD didn't want this," Christensen said of the proposed legislation. "It's a smoke screen, forced on them by Hagel."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has been a vocal opponent of the current system. She has criticized the Pentagon review for not considering whether trained military prosecutors should replace commanders in deciding how to dispose of cases. Prosecutors have more expertise and less bias than commanders, according to her and other critics of the current system."

 

There are several more pages of details here in the original article: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/03/28/pentagon-proposes-first-changes-to-ucmj-in-30-years.html

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RV

 

I do not believe that the sentences should be aligned with the Department of Justice guidelines nor do I believe that the judge should be making the decisions on the sentence. If you want to be treated like a civilian then don't put on the uniform. What's next "my Drill Sergeant spoke harshly to me and hurt my feelings"?

 

Dennis

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"the proposal was an effort to abort even more sweeping changes, in particular stripping the chain of command from its prosecutorial and judicial role in the military justice system".....IMO, this is what needs to happen...in order to prevent this: "The proposed legislation would leave military commanders to still determine which cases go to court-martial, what charges will be brought against a defendant, whether to cut a deal, and whether to grant clemency after conviction.



The Military Judicial system has proven time and again to be a good old boys network when it comes to prosecuting sexual predators....who just happen to be in a position of authority.



Regards


Gemstone

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