Friday, June 16, 2006

Unlawful Command Influence

Get used to hearing the term, unlawful command influence, used alot in coming weeks and months. According to United States vs. Gore, No. 03-6003, 60 MJ 178, unlawful command influence can be defined as:
No authority convening a general, special, or summary court-martial, nor any other commanding officer, may censure, reprimand, or admonish the court or any member, military judge, or counsel thereof, with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the court, or with respect to any other exercises of its or his functions in the conduct of the proceedings. No person subject to this chapter may attempt to coerce or, by any unauthorized means, influence the action of a court-martial or any other military tribunal or any member thereof, in reaching the findings or sentence in any case. . . .
Such statements have the effect of depriving the accused of their rights:
“The exercise of command influence tends to deprive servicemembers of their constitutional rights. If directed against prospective defense witnesses, it transgresses the accused’s right to have access to favorable evidence.”
Confederate Yankee sums it up thusly:
John Murtha took the extraordinary step of accusing Marines of a war crime before the investigation was complete, and perhaps has compromised justice in this process entirely. Someone should ask Murtha if his political grandstanding was worth becoming the "mortal enemy of military justice" and jeopardizing the constitutional rights of these Marines. Someone should, but they aren't likely to get an answer. According the author of the Times article, Murtha’s spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.
It appears that someone may be defense attorneys for the accused, who will use those statements to enlighten the proceeding about the potential railroading of their clients without having the benefit of a completed investigation.

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