Armed Forces News

Mississippi National Guard Maj. Jonathan Bullock, Trial Defense Council, questions the accused during the 4th annual 167th Theater Sustainment Command mock court martial, Aug. 2, 2018, at the Calhoun County Courthouse, Anniston, Alabama. (Army photo.)

The Senate version of the 2022 defense-spending bill contains a host of provisions that would alter the way certain court martial trials are conducted. Key changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) include:

· An addition that requires service secretaries to detail commissioned officers to serve as both special and assistant special victim prosecutors. The UCMJ would clearly articulate mechanisms and procedures these prosecutors would follow.

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· Commanders would not be considered as accusers in general or special court martial trials in which charges and specifications were referred by special victim prosecutors.

· In cases referred to trial by special and assistant special victim prosecutors, they will be detailed to serve as trial counsel.

· Special and assistant special victim prosecutors alone have the authority to waive a preliminary hearing for special victim offenses. Such hearings would require that military judges or magistrates serve as preliminary hearing officers. Special victim prosecutors also have “exclusive authority” to determine if rehearings authorized by military justice appellate authorities are impracticable. If such is the case, they also have the authority to dismiss “any affected charge.”

· Sexual harassment would become a stand-alone offense.

· Dating partners could be considered victims in domestic violence or stalking cases.

· Mandating establishment of a “uniform, consolidated, document-based data system” to track all aspects of UCMJ offenses.

· Requiring each service to fully fund the mechanisms and processes by which military defense lawyers have access to investigators, expert witnesses, trial support and other resources they may need.

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