Army Publishes February 2017 Court-Martial Results - 72% Acquittal Rate in Contested Sexual Assault Trials

Army Publishes February 2017 Court-Martial Results - 72% Acquittal Rate in Contested Sexual Assault Trials

On 15 March, the Army published the service-wide court-martial results for February 2017. Here is our analysis.

We saw a couple of trends continue. Of the 40 trials, 27 were guilty pleas (67%). That statistic is relatively consistent from month to month. It seems that defense counsel are exercising good judgment (based on our limited information). Most of the guilty pleas tend to involve absence without leave, child rape offenses, and other historically difficult cases.

We're mostly interested in how judges and juries are disposing of adult sexual assault cases. We counted 11 contested sexual assault cases (27%). Sexual assault charges may be trending down. It's difficult to say, but we'll be watching volume closely.

Of the 11 contested cases, there were 8 acquittals (72%). That number is high. The numbers continue to support contested sexual assault cases. There is an increasing trend in recent memory for judge-alone sexual assault trials. We still think that's a bold move. Judges did fully acquit in two cases.

The sentences in the 4 contested sexual assault cases were 9 months, 13 months, 2 years, and 14 years. Sentencing is still highly fact dependent. Over the last few years, we've expected single specification sexual assault cases to trend at about 2 years confinement for guilty findings. That number may be trending down with the 9 months and 13-month sentences.

There 40 total trials. It looks like there was one bifurcated trial at Fort Knox with a judge alone and panel acquittal. We'll count that as a military judge and jury acquittal.