Military Lawyer Defense Strategy & Tactics
Aggressive Court Martial Lawyers
When The Bilecki Law Group is retained, we immediately begin working to gain a complete understanding of your side of the story and facts relevant to your case. Your
military defense attorney begins a thorough investigation that includes interviewing all possible witnesses, scouring the law enforcement file, and talking with the prosecution to gain insight and let them know
we mean business. We believe this initial investigation are often overlooked by other firms, yet comprise a critical step in building a successful defense. Timothy Bilecki believes that pleading cases is typically a last resort; a "not guilty" verdict or dismissal of charges is usually the ultimate goal.
The Bilecki Law Group constantly operates under the auspices that those who don't commence immediate preparations to win at trial will lose at trial.
Many law firms and civilian military defense lawyers do not independently investigate cases, two critical errors that perpetually jeopardize winning cases. M. Bilecki questions the contents of sworn statements taken by law enforcement, and routinely discovers false, misleading, or totally fabricated "sworn statements." The Bilecki Law group utilizes personally-conducted witness interviews and investigations to formulate a solid trial strategy from the case outset. Unlike many military defense attorneys, who question witnesses at Article 32 hearings without a comprehensive strategy, we formulate and implement a defense strategies in the early stages of a case by drafting requests for witnesses and discovery strategically - not blindly - with an eye toward winning at trial. The initial, independent investigation typically forms the foundation for a successful trial.
At trial, savvy law enforcement agents and prosecutors will expect a good defense attorney to have familiarized himself with their reports; however, few will expect a court martial lawyer to have visited or documented the scene of the crime, the places where evidence was collected or the room in which the client was interrogated. Without an independent examination of critical sites like these, it is impossible to cross-examine a CID, NCIS or OSI agent thoroughly. Unless your military lawyer has investigated your case independently, he or she is left to imagine the area or attempt to reconstruct it from photographs or diagrams. Without doing so, when the CID, NCIS or OSI agent takes the stand and lies to the panel, your military lawyer will either miss the lie or second-guess himself.
When court martial lawyer Timothy Bilecki goes to a scene - be it a barracks room where an alleged rape took place, a street where an Airman was involved in a brawl, or an NCIS interrogation room where a Marine allegedly "confessed" to possession of child pornography - we leave no stone uncovered and follow up on the important leads. A hard hitting military defense lawyer simply cannot depend on law enforcement to properly document evidence, especially evidence that may undercut their theory of the case. If your assigned defense counsel has not conducted an investigation or documented crime scene evidence, critical evidence may be lost forever. It may be time for a civilian military lawyer.
One of Mr. Bilecki's early mentors was legendary Miami criminal trial lawyer, Joel Hirschhorn, who said: "To win, you must focus on the quality of your representation, not the quantity of cases. You must investigate, organize, prepare and present your case the old fashioned way: hard work, long hours, meticulous attention to even the smallest detail, a lot of perspiration and a little inspiration." This valuable teaching has guided Timothy Bilecki for over a decade and is reflected in every aspect of his work and the work of the court martial lawyers and staff at his firm
That "little inspiration" often comes while exploring the scene of the crime. Many of Mr. Bilecki's best ideas for cross-examination come during this initial investigation, when they documents critical evidence often missed or undocumented by law enforcement. When witnesses see photographs taken by our court martial lawyers, they know a thorough investigation has been conducted; at the Article 32 hearing or trial, these witnesses know that any efforts to lie or bend the truth will be unsuccessful. Armed with knowledge and evidence gained from a first-hand investigation, an experienced court-martial defense lawyer like Timothy Bilecki is able to relentlessly cross-examine witnesses and lying law enforcement agents with confidence. By demonstrating mastery over even the smallest details of the crime scene, witness statements, and law enforcement reports, we can dominate witnesses during cross-examination. Be wary of any court martial lawyer or criminal defense attorney - military or civilian - who does not (or can not) conduct a thorough, independent investigation early in the proceedings.
The Article 32 Hearing
The stated purpose of an Article 32 hearing is "to inquire into the truth of the matter set forth in the charges under the UCMJ, to consider the form of the charges, and to secure information to determine what disposition should be made of the case in the interest of justice and discipline." Often, prosecutors (and sometimes defense attorneys) treat the Article 32 hearing as a mere "speed bump" on the road to trial. At The Bilecki Law Group, however, the Article 32 hearing can be an integral component in our strategic pursuit of a "not guilty" verdict or case dismissal.
While often compared to a Federal Grand Jury proceeding, an Article 32 hearing is different in several significant ways. Notably, the defense has additional rights at the Article 32 that can be utilized as part of a strategic plan, including the right to call witnesses, present evidence, and cross-examine witnesses called by the prosecution.
In reality, the Article 32 hearing forces the prosecution to prove to an independent Investigating Officer that sufficient evidence exists to proceed to trial. The Article 32 Investigating Officer will listen to all the evidence presented and make a recommendation as to whether the charges should go forward and if so, at what level (Summary Courts-Martial, Special Courts-Martial, General Courts-Martial). This recommendation is provided directly to the General Courts-Martial Convening Authority, usually the Commanding General, along with recommendations from the prosecutor's office and the chain of command. It is important to remember that the Convening Authority decides if charges go forward, not the Investigating Officer. Forgetting this important detail, many court martial lawyers attempt to "try the case" blindly at the Article 32 hearing, thinking that a great show for the Investigating Officer will prevent the progression to trial. While this can happen in rare situations, it is certainly not the norm across the military. Military lawyers who commit this grave error hazard a cache of possible effects:
Savvy prosecutors and Special Victim Prosecutors (SVPs) will subsequently take audio recordings of the cross-examinations conducted during the Article 32 hearing and replay them for witnesses scheduled to appear at trial; what seemed like a blistering cross at the hearing becomes ineffectual and mediocre when it matters most, since witnesses will be prepared to field difficult questions. The end result is often a full conviction.
Just as damaging or possibly more damaging, your inexperienced defense attorney has just provided prosecutors with an all-access pass to his playbook. Prosecutors will know your attorney's defense strategy well before trial, allowing them to devote considerable time and effort to "prosecuting around the defense" or worse, developing a rebuttal case to present to the panel after the defense rests. This usually results in a full conviction.
Without a proper initial investigation to develop a trial strategy early on, a careless court martial lawyer can do significant damage at an Article 32 hearing that may in fact contribute to your conviction. Retaining an experienced court-martial lawyer is often your only chance to level the playing field against experienced, determined prosecutors.
Trial: The key to leveling the playing field
For a military court martial lawyer to win trials, there may be no more important task than mastering successful cross-examination techniques and properly utilizing those techniques in the heat of trial. Many experienced criminal defense lawyers would agree the majority of a court martial is devoted to the prosecution's case. Inherent to a defense trial strategy is dissecting, exposing, and crippling the government's case, and cross-examination is a key factor in this process.
A military court martial is a chess match, not a game of checkers. Heavy-hitting, winning cross-examinations do not happen by chance or luck. Building a powerful cross-examination requires meticulous preparation, a thorough pre-trial investigation and military trial experience. Is your assigned military lawyer playing checkers or chess?
At The Bilecki Law Group, experience tells us that the pre-trial investigation alone does not win trials, and few cases get "dropped" after the Article 32 hearing. Pre-trial motions or wordy "ivy league" legal arguments do not win trials. Opening statements are required to give the panel a road map of your case, but they do not win trials. Even a soap box-pounding, impassioned closing argument does not, by itself, win a trial. Effective cross-examination, based off an investigation that uncovered every detail and a solid trial strategy, is the key to winning a trial. Done properly, cross-examination can expose the sloppy law enforcement investigation, the coerced "confession," the command's unlawful influence and the witnesses self-serving lies. Cross-examination is an indispensable skill to the experienced court martial trial lawyer. Without heavy-hitting, thorough cross-examination, your conviction is all but inevitable. Most military lawyers are shamefully inept at the art of cross-examination, evidenced by the military's 90%+ conviction rate. If you are facing court martial charges, ask yourself if your free military lawyer is up to the task of truly defending your freedom.
Our Court Martial Defense Strategy
Overcoming The Credibility Deficit
If the panel (jury) members sense your military defense lawyer's weakness, inexperience or lack of confidence, they simply may not trust the information he presents - regardless of its factuality. It may not matter what story an inexperienced defense lawyer puts forward during opening statement, what points he scores during cross-examination, or what arguments he makes during his closing - if the panel does not believe him or her, you may be convicted.
Trial counsel (military prosecutors) have the luxury of "riding into the courtroom on a white horse," doing justice, ensuing good order and discipline and putting the "dirt bags" in jail. Most panel members automatically assume the credibility of the trial counsel, who happens to work for the Staff Judge Advocate ( SJA) who
happens to advise the Commanding General, who
happens to appoint panel members. You can see the problem.
The military defense lawyer, on the other hand, is initially perceived as a pain in the command's side and as the guy who stands in the way of "doing justice." An inexperienced military defense attorney stands before the panel with what we call a "credibility deficit," a pre-existing prejudice against the defense. Despite the theory that you are "innocent until proven guilty," the reality of a military court martial is that a Solider, Sailor, Airmen or Marine is often guilty until proven innocent. Only a fearless, heavy-hitting, experienced defense attorney can overcome the credibility deficit and gain the panel's trust and win the case. If you are being represented by an inexperienced defense attorney who will be distrusted by panel members, your own representation may help secure your conviction.
What Many Military Defense Attorneys Do Wrong
After nearly a decade in the criminal defense realm, attorneys at The Bilecki Law Group have seen some outstanding cross-examinations (the ones that can win cases) and some horrific cross-examinations. Unfortunately, most military defense attorneys are not good cross-examiners. We believe that most military criminal defense attorney simply lack the trial experience necessary to become great at the art of cross-examination. In the military, most Judge Advocates who practice criminal defense are only assigned to the Trial Defense Service for 18 - 24 months, simply not enough time to develop outstanding cross-examination skills. Further exacerbating the problem, many military defense attorneys were trained as military prosecutors and never received proper training in the fundamentals of cross-examination. Timothy Bilecki, Kiley Hyatt and Special Counsel Michael Waddington have each represented hundreds of clients, have significant criminal defense experience, and have been heralded as some of the best cross-examiners in the business.
How We Level the Playing Field
Military criminal trials are immensely complicated by a variety of factors, and having an inexperienced defense attorney who doesn't have the experience or drive to navigate such a legal minefield makes your conviction all but inevitable. The Bilecki Law Group is devoted to defending military personnel and has the experience to traverse the legal battleground successfully. With the deck stacked against you, don't gamble on a losing hand. Call The Bilecki Law Group to discuss all of your options and level the playing field in your case.
We serve worldwide including following Locations:
Hawaii, Korea, Okinawa, Japan, Guam, Continental United States, Germany, Italy, Bahrain, Iraq and Afghanistan.