Article 25 Court-Martial Panel
Article 25 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) governs the composition and selection of the court-martial panel in the United States military. The court-martial panel, also known as the jury, is responsible for determining the guilt or innocence of the accused in a court-martial proceeding.
The court-martial panel is composed of at least five members for a general court-martial, and at least three members for a special court-martial. The members must be officers or enlisted personnel who are subject to the UCMJ and are not less than the grade of the accused. However, the convening authority has the discretion to appoint members of higher rank than the accused if they are otherwise qualified.
The convening authority is responsible for selecting the members of the court-martial panel and must ensure that they are impartial and have no personal interest in the case. The members are also required to be of good character and temperate habits and must have the ability to understand the evidence presented at the trial.
In addition, the accused has the right to challenge members of the court-martial panel for cause, if there is evidence that the member may be biased or prejudiced against the accused. The accused also has the right to peremptorily challenge a certain number of members without stating a reason.
Overall, the court-martial panel is an important component of the military justice system and plays a crucial role in ensuring a fair and impartial trial for the accused.
How to ensure fairness in panel selection for Court-Martial
The convening authority has the responsibility to ensure that the members of a court-martial panel are impartial and have no personal interest in the case. To achieve this, the convening authority typically selects potential members from a pool of eligible personnel and conducts a screening process to ensure their suitability for service on the panel.
The screening process may include a review of the potential members’ service records, background checks, and interviews to assess their qualifications and impartiality. The convening authority may also consult with the military judge or legal advisors to ensure that the members meet the requirements of Article 25 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Additionally, members of the court-martial panel are required to undergo pretrial instructions, which provide guidance on their role and responsibilities as panel members. The instructions emphasize the importance of impartiality and impartial decision-making and provide guidelines for evaluating evidence and making determinations of guilt or innocence.
If during the trial, the accused believes that a court martial panel member may be biased or prejudiced, they have the right to challenge the member for cause. This means that the accused can present evidence to the military judge that suggests that the panel member is unable to render a fair and impartial verdict in the case. The military judge will then determine whether to remove the challenged member and replace them with an alternate member.
In summary, the convening authority takes several measures to ensure that the members of a court-martial panel are impartial, including a screening process, pretrial instructions, and the ability for the accused to challenge court-martial panel members for cause.
What does the defense screen for in their voir dire of the potential court-martial panel members?
During the screening process for potential court-martial panel members, the defense will generally look for any potential biases or factors that may impact the member’s ability to be impartial in the case. Some specific factors that the defense may consider during the screening process include:
Personal connections: The defense may look for any personal connections between the potential panel member and the prosecution, the accused, or any witnesses in the case. If a member has a personal connection to any of these parties, it may suggest bias or the appearance of bias.
Prior knowledge: The defense may look for any prior knowledge or involvement the potential member may have had with the case or similar cases. For example, a member who has previously served on a court-martial panel involving similar facts or circumstances may be biased or prejudiced.
Professional background: The defense may consider the potential member’s professional background, including their job duties and any training or experience they may have had that could influence their decision-making in the case.
Attitudes and beliefs: The defense may look for any attitudes or beliefs held by the potential member that could affect their impartiality. For example, a member who has expressed strong opinions on the subject matter of the case may be biased.
General demeanor: The defense may observe the potential member’s general demeanor and conduct during the screening process to assess their ability to be fair and impartial in the case.
Overall, the defense’s goal during the screening process is to identify any potential biases or factors that may impact the impartiality of the court-martial panel members, and to ensure that the accused receives a fair and impartial trial.
Have there been high profile cases where the judge removed a panel member?
There have been several high-profile cases in the United States military where a court-martial panel member was thrown off a case for bias or other reasons. Here are a few examples:
United States v. Sinclair: In 2014, Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair was charged with sexual assault and other offenses. During the trial, a panel member was removed after the defense challenged him for cause due to his statements indicating a presumption of guilt. Another panel member was removed after admitting to having a prior sexual assault conviction.
United States v. Bergdahl: In 2017, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. During his trial, a panel member was removed after the defense challenged her for cause due to her expressing a belief that Bergdahl was guilty before hearing any evidence.
United States v. Gallagher: In 2019, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was charged with war crimes, including murder and attempted murder. During the trial, a panel member was removed after the defense challenged him for cause due to his admitted bias against the defense team and his prior attempts to influence other panel members.
These cases demonstrate the importance of the challenge for cause process and the need to ensure that court-martial panel members are impartial and unbiased.
An excellent defense attorney works to remove panel members who are prejudiced against their client. They must be experts at the ‘Voir Dire’ or screening process that uncovers bias. When this process fails to remove a targeted juror by argument, the accused also has the right to peremptorily challenge a certain number of members without stating a reason. If you are facing court-martial or have been convicted at court-martial, call (757) 504-2815 or contact us today to discuss your case.