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.

Face the Facts

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
  • Deputy Staff Judge Advocates

All these individuals are 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 following are difficult, if not impossible, for the defense to make use of:

  • The Brook Army Medical Center
  • The Tripler Army Medical Center
  • The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research
  • The Defense Computer Forensic Lab (DCFL)

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 LLLC 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 martial trial.

Call the law firm of Bilecki & Tipon LLLC today at (800) 996-9747 and together we’ll take the fight to the prosecution.