On 1 November, the Army released courts-martial data for September. Numbers across jurisdictions seem fairly consistent from month to month since we started monitoring the numbers a few months ago. This blog continues to monitor court-martial volume, forum selection, acquittal rates, and sentence ranges.
September is often a busy month in the Army as courts catch up their dockets after the summer and before the holidays start. There were 44 courts-martial Army wide. Only 19 were contested cases. 56% were guilty pleas. That is a good number to see. More Soldiers took their cases to trial in September.
There were 9 cases that we consider full acquittals - mostly sexual assault. That's a 47% acquittal rate. It's a little below average since we started monitoring the numbers. I suspect it's because 7 of the 19 cases were judge alone. If one or two of those judge alone cases had gone to a jury the numbers may have edged closer to the 60% acquittal rate that we're accustomed to seeing.
Sentences stayed relatively stable within a range. We still expect sexual assault cases to range from 2-4 years per victim. There were a couple of cases that had sentences above market.
Our bottom line analysis continues to be that contested jury trials are often the smart choice. Soldiers in jury trials seemed to fare better - though every case is unique.
First Judicial Circuit includes Fort Campbell, Fort Knox, Fort Drum, and Fort McNair.
The First Circuit reported 10 courts-martial. Six out of 10 were contested cases. Three were judge alone.
Three were contested sexual assault cases in front of juries. The panels acquitted in two cases. At Fort Drum, in an abusive sexual contact case with multiple specifications, a Soldier was found guilty of one of the specs. It was probably a sexual touching. He was sentenced to 3 months restriction and 60 days hard labor without confinement and no discharge.
The Second Judicial Circuit includes Fort Bragg, Fort Stewart, Fort Gordon, and Fort Benning.
There were 8 courts-martial in the circuit. Five cases were guilty pleas. One was a trial by judge alone. The Soldier was convicted by a judge.
One of the two contested jury trials was Mr. Conway's case at Fort Bragg. A Master Sergeant was acquitted by a jury of rape, disrespect, and fraternization.
A Soldier at Fort Stewart had a mixed verdict in a jury trial.
The Third Judicial Circuit includes Fort Riley, Fort Hood, and Fort Sill. There were 10 reported cases in the circuit. This is always a troubling circuit. We don't know what the problem is. Of the 10 cases, 8 were guilty pleas. The two contested trials were judge alone and involved convictions. One was a judge alone sexual assault trial with a 4 year sentence for two specifications of Article 120. It's not an unreasonable sentence, but perhaps a little above market.
Lawyers in the Third Circuit - particularly Fort Hood - tend to be highly risk averse. They seem to favor guilty pleas and judge alone trials. We had one contested case as Fort Hood in October. The jury gave us a full acquittal.
The Fourth Circuit includes Fort Lewis, Fort Richardson, Fort Carson, Fort Wainwright, Camp Casey, and Fort Bliss. There were 13 reported courts-martial. Of those, 8 were guilty pleas.
In the 5 contested cases, only one was military judge alone. That case involved 5 specifications of sexual assault. The judge gave him a 9 year sentence.
In the 4 contested jury trials, the Soldiers fared well. At Fort Lewis a jury acquitted a sergeant of sexual assault. A Fort Lewis jury also acquitted a major of sexual assault. A Camp Casey jury acquitted a sergeant first class of maltreatment.
A Fort Lewis jury convicted a Soldier of raping a child and gave him a 32 year sentence.
The Fifth Judicial Circuit is Germany. There were 3 reported cases. All three should be considered acquittals in our book. A judge acquitted a Soldier of false official statement. A jury acquitted a Soldier of wrongful drug use. In a mixed plea, a Soldier plead guilty to failing to obey an order, but was acquitted by a panel of sexual assault. We're going to tally that case as an acquittal.