A military judge has ruled that any conviction of a criminal sexual-assault court martial now before him would require a unanimous vote by the jury. Stars and Stripes reported Jan. 4 that the judge, Army Col. Charles Pritchard, made the pre-trial decision because he believes failure to do so would deprive the defendant of the same constitutional rights afforded to civilians.
The case involves an Army Lt. Col in the Belgium-based Allied Forces North Battalion, charged with three counts of sexual assault. His court martial was scheduled to begin earlier this week at Kaiserslauten, Germany. Pritchard made his decision based upon a request from Dial’s defense lawyers, who cited a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that barred non-unanimous verdicts in state criminal trials. That decision, and other related ones, did not mention the military justice system. Traditionally and by legal precedent, courts have determined that Congress should have overarching power to determine which civilian protections apply to members of the armed forces. Non-unanimous decisions are allowed in military trials presently.