“Congress has vested responsibility for determining sentence appropriateness in the Courts of Criminal Appeals. The power to review a case for sentence appropriateness, which reflects the unique history and attributes of the military justice system, includes but is not limited to considerations of uniformity and evenhandedness of sentencing decisions.” United States v. Durant, 55 M.J. 258, 260 (C.A.A.F. 2001) (internal citations omitted).
As the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has made clear, “Article 66(c)’s sentence appropriateness provision is a sweeping Congressional mandate to ensure a fair and just punishment for every accused.” United States v. Baier, 60 M.J. 382, 384 (C.A.A.F. 2005) (citations and internal quotations omitted). This provision “requires that the members of [the Courts of Criminal Appeals] independently determine, in every case within [their] limited Article 66, UCMJ, jurisdiction, the sentence appropriateness of each case [they] affirm.” Id. at 384-85 (alterations in original)(citations and internal quotations omitted).
Further, Courts of Criminal Appeals have the discretion to consider and compare other courts-martial sentences when that Court is reviewing a case for sentence appropriateness and relative uniformity. See United States v. Wacha, 55 M.J. 266, 268 (C.A.A.F. 2001). This Court has stated that “[a]lthough we generally consider appropriateness without reference to other sentences, we are required to examine sentence disparities in closely related cases[.]” United States v. Christian, 63 M.J. 714, 717 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. 2006) (citing Wacha, 55 M.J. at 267-68) (citations omitted). Appellant bears the burden of demonstrating that any cited cases are “closely related” to his or her case and that the sentences are “highly disparate.” United States v. Lacy, 50 M.J. 286, 288 (C.A.A.F. 1999).
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