Here is something that was included in the recently passed defense spending bill:
The massive overhaul of the military justice system that many advocates wanted isn’t in the final legislation, but the bill does include a host of new provisions designed to protect military sex assault victims. Among them: removing commanders ability to overturn jury convictions, requiring a dishonorable discharge for sex assault offenders and more legal assistance for victims. [Stars & Stripes]
The Stars & Stripes is showing either their bias or the ineptitude on this issue because the military does not have juries, it has court martial panels. A court martial panel is very different from a jury and the term should not be used interchangeably because it will cause people unfamiliar with the military justice system to equate it with the civilian justice system. In the federal jury system there are 12 people who are peers to the accused who have to vote unanimously to find someone guilty of a crime. This is what most people think of when they think of a jury. In a court martial panel there are 5 people who are not peers, usually higher ranking officers who just have to get a majority vote to convict. This is why senior commanders have the responsibility to review cases to make sure that servicemembers are not being falsely convicted by a system that does not have the amount of protections in it that the civilian court system has.
With that all said removing the ability for commanders to overturn court martial panel decisions is probably not that big a deal because it very rarely ever happened and it is career suicide for a general officer to overturn such convictions now. So servicemembers who are convicted now by a court martial with little to no evidence will just have to sit in jail and wait for the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review their cases and if warranted overturn them instead which has happened to a number of people already. So really the bill doesn’t change a whole lot for the military, but allows Congress to show they are doing something.