That is what this defense lawyer believes:
All of which worries military defense attorneys and scholars, who fear a congressional overreaction.
“The senators’ … statements are a danger to the fair administration of military justice, not just in the Wilkerson case, but in all pending and future military justice cases, especially those involving sexual assault,” defense attorney Phil Cave cautioned in an interview.
A former Navy legal officer, Cave added that lawmakers’ “specific interference” in the Wilkerson case amounted to an abuse of their authority and might amount to unlawful command influence. Wilkerson’s civilian defense attorney, Frank Spinner, agreed in an interview Friday that “the senators’ statements may constitute unlawful command influence and will have a chilling effect” on military officials. [Stars & Stripes]
It is very arguable that due to political pressure that sexual assault cases that should have never went to trial due to lack of evidence are going to trial anyway due to commanders fearing for their careers.
Meanwhile, a McClatchy Newspapers review of nearly 70 military sexual assault cases, involving thousands of pages obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, found that commanding officers aggressively pursue sexual assault prosecutions, sometimes over the objections or concerns of investigators. Many acquittals have resulted. (…..)
This may be particularly true in a political climate where commanding officers feel pressure to prosecute sexual assault allegations. In the Marine Corps, for instance, tough talk by the commandant has complicated dozens of sexual assault cases, as defense attorneys repeatedly raise the claim of unlawful command influence.
The McClatchy review of previously unreported documents from 68 sexual assault cases at Georgia’s Fort Benning, North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, California’s Camp Pendleton and several other bases nationwide found commanding officers sometimes using their prosecutorial discretion to proceed with weak cases. In 30 of the 68 cases, the defendants were acquitted or were found guilty only of lesser charges.
In a number of the acquittals McClatchy reviewed, commanding officers had proceeded with prosecution despite explicit objections or serious questions raised by investigating officers.
Likewise it is arguable that juries are also under political pressure to convict servicemembers in these cases in order to not be accused of being soft on sexual assault. Is it any wonder why the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has been overturning rape convictions under such conditions? It seems like there is so much command influence to convict servicemembers accused of sexual assault that defense lawyers will likely start using this as a reason to justify appeals for their clients? Any lawyers out there want to comment on this?