What You’re Up Against: The Court Martial Process In Hawaii
A 90% Military Conviction Rate is the Least of Your Worries When You Decide
to Fight Back
If you’re convinced that you’ve been wrongfully accused, and
a victory in court is a simple matter of showing the jury the facts of
your case, then you’re in for a very rude awakening. A court martial
may appear fair and unbiased from the outside. It may seem like justice
is the number one priority to all parties involved. It may look like all
of the facts and evidence are being considered.
In reality, law enforcement “misplaces” evidence, prosecutorial
teams can completely ignore facts that aren’t favorable to secure
a conviction, and witnesses perjure themselves to escape their own misconduct.
In the courtroom, justice is not the primary goal, and information is
twisted in an attempt to advocate for a specific verdict in court.
Unfortunately this is just the beginning of a service member’s troubles.
An accused service member in the military justice system faces complete
pariah status. Your commanding officers turn their backs on you, your
friends will be told not to speak with you, and you’ll eventually
be left fighting your case alone, with no one but your legal representative
at your side on the day the trial begins.
We’ve been fighting military criminal cases long enough to know that
the deck is stacked against you from the very beginning. From the Special
Victim Prosecutors that the government employs to the extreme tactics
involved in ignoring or even hiding evidence from the defense, you’ll
be fighting an uphill battle from the moment you enter the courtroom.
You’re Going Up Against Some of the Best Legal Minds in the U.S. Military
Special Victim Prosecutors, or SVPs as they’re known in a court martial,
are the elite fighting force of the military’s legal arm. The government
is especially fond of sending these SVPs into sexual assault trials, since
this is an area where securing convictions is a top priority. These SVPs
have tried dozens upon dozens of cases over the years and are masters
at securing convictions.
A fair system would provide you with a defense team as dedicated and experienced
as that of the prosecution. This is
not the case and you could be paired up with a recent law school graduate
with practically zero experience in court. This almost always tips the
scales in the prosecution’s favor
unless the accused hires a very capable defense team that knows all about government
tactics and strategies.
The Government Has an Army of Legal Experts Arrayed Against You
A conviction rate upwards of 90% doesn’t happen by chance. If your
sexual assault case merits extra attention in the government’s eyes,
you’ll be forced to contend against not one, but
multiple prosecutors. And even if you’re not facing sexual assault allegations,
the government will often assign a Senior Trial Counsel (STC) to take
lead in the case against you.
These SVPs and STCs aren’t working alone. They’ll have the
full backing of investigators, paralegal support, government legal consultants,
Highly Qualified Experts (HQEs), Staff Judge Advocates and deputy Staff
Judge Advocates, all prepared to do what it takes to ensure a conviction.
And if you thought your military-issued defense attorney has access to
these experts, think again. If he or she is provided even one experienced
paralegal, it’s considered fortunate.
You’re Up Against a Legal Budget Exponentially Larger Than Your Own
The government has budgeted exorbitant amounts of its vast monetary resources
to try and convict service members accused of criminal activities. This
bottomless pit of money is used to secure forensic evidence from some
of the most prestigious labs in the country, including the United States
Army Criminal Investigative Lab (USACIL). And it can and will be used
to secure witness testimony from anywhere in the world.
Your defense attorney can’t access even a penny of that particular
budget, which means that you’ll either need to beg the government
to provide you with the experts and witnesses you need, or you’ll
need to put up the money yourself. Without the right witnesses and experts,
you stand a good chance of being found guilty in your court martial case.
Law Enforcement Isn’t On Your Side and Could Care Less About Your Innocence
You may think that the facts and evidence point to your innocence, but
what if biased law enforcement
controls the facts and evidence to begin with? Are you willing to trust them to
do the right thing, even if they receive their paycheck from the same
entity that’s trying to convict you in a court martial?
The military’s investigative divisions (CID, NCIS, and OSI) aren’t
interested in hearing your side of the story. They also tend to conveniently
avoid any evidence that may support your narrative in court. This could
mean leaving out a key witness that may have helped your cause, or “ignoring”
a piece of evidence that supported your argument. Worse, they’re
often called on to provide testimony in court, making them dangerous and
experienced witnesses that understand how to persuade a jury against you.
A defense team that relies on law enforcement evidence alone to prove their
case is being foolishly naive. When you’ve tried cases for as long
as Bilecki & Tipon has, it becomes second nature to discuss the possibility
of a private defense investigation before proceeding to trial.
Only the Prosecution Has Access to the USACIL Labs
Court martial cases are often won and lost based on the conclusions of
forensic evidence. Unfortunately for service members suspected of a crime,
the largest and most advanced forensic lab, the United States Army Criminal
Investigative Lab (USACIL), is all but closed and barred to anyone but
the prosecution and its team of legal experts.
But this is just for starters. Other key laboratory facilities such as
the Brook Army Medical Center, the Tripler Army Medical Center, the Walter
Reed Army Institute of Research, and the Defense Computer Forensic Lab
(DCFL) are all difficult if not impossible for the defense to make use
of. If the defense
does attempt to use these resources, they’ll have to provide detailed
reasoning as to why the request is being made, thus showing their hand
and allowing the prosecution time to prepare counter-experts to take the
stand. The individuals working in these labs are funded by the government
and are there to help secure convictions. Essentially, they’re law
enforcement agents with lab coats.
The Government Isn’t Above Paying Witnesses for Testimony
The brutally honest truth is that the government will gladly offer leniency
or immunity deals to other service members facing charges as long as they
provide testimony against you. This is akin to buying testimony. The government
has no scruples about using this tactic in court, even if it means that
a witness has to testify to what the government wants them to testify
to before the court and the jury.
A tactical plan for your defense team against a bought-off witness is to
catch them in one of their own lies. But this isn’t always easy
considering just how much that witness has at stake if they’re caught.
This strategy has seen wide use in recent years and we expect to see even
more of it in the future.
Want to see your attorney? Sorry, not until charges are preferred.
Law enforcement knows that the longer you wait to select a lawyer, the
better their chances are of convicting you. So it comes as no surprise
that the government will delay detailing you a defense attorney until
after evidence is collected and prepared, and charges are officially preferred
against you. By the time you realize what’s happening, it’s
often too late to do anything about it.
To make matters worse, every minute you’re left without a lawyer
is another minute the government gets to take a crack at you. It’s
possible that by the time charges are preferred against you, you’ve
already slipped up, either by confessing to the allegations or giving
law enforcement enough of your own poorly managed testimony to seal your fate.
To make matters worse, the government can prefer charges against you and
then request your Article 32 to be held almost immediately afterward,
giving your defense attorney a matter of
days to learn everything there is to know about the case. Your attorney can
request a delay the preliminary hearing, but that’s often a longshot
with a good chance of being denied outright.
Your FREE Defense Counsel Could be Completely Outgunned
The military defense lawyer that you’re detailed may have closer
ties to the JAG office than you realize. These lawyers are often in close
contact with the military’s prosecutors, and are simply waiting
for their next assignment. This puts them under immense pressure to not
rock the boat, and can force them to decide between their own future and
their client’s. This perpetuates a system which keeps the military
conviction rate over 90 percent.
Even Senior Defense Counsels that aren’t interested in this type
of behavior may still be outgunned by the prosecution. Don’t let
the word “senior” fool you—these defense counsels often
have minimal experience defending trials to verdict. This can make them
sitting ducks for the prosecution’s SVPs, who may run circles around
them until a guilty verdict is secured.
You know the odds are against you. The question is whether you’ll
act before it's too late
You may only experience a handful of these abusive government tactics.
Or they may come at you with every one of them. You really can’t
tell how desperate your situation is until you’re smack in the middle
of your own court martial. And by then it’s often too late to do
anything about it.
Fighting these government tactics means hiring a true gunslinger to advocate
for you in court. The Bilecki & Tipon team has proven time and again
that they have what it takes to beat the odds and win in court. We’re
champions of the service member who has no allies in court and no one
to turn to. With B&T advocating on
your side, you’ll have all the resources you need to succeed in a court
Call the law firm of Bilecki & Tipon today at (800) 996-9747 and together we’ll take the fight to the prosecution.