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Tim Bilecki

Member Expects a Guilty Accused to Plead Guilty

Aug 12, 2011
United States v. White, No. 20061313 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 11, 2010) (unpublished) deals with the issue of a member expecting a guilty accused to plead guilty.

During individual voir dire, panel member said he observed a trial of one of his Soldiers who had been charged with sexually abusing a child. He said he resented the Soldier – who was clearly guilty – for pleading not guilty and forcing the child victim to testify.

The member said, “I kind of have malice toward [the soldier] because he was guilty and I think he knew in his heart he was guilty but he made his 10-year-old daughter get on the stand and [recount] what he did to her and I didn’t appreciate that very much.” He added, “[I]t was very evident that the [s]oldier was guilty and he was proven to be guilty. And yes[,] you’re innocent until proven guilty, but pretty much everybody knew that the guy was guilty—I mean, for lack of a better term he was a scum bag. And for him to put that little girl through the trauma member a few rehabilitation questions and the member agreed the other case would not affect his deliberations in the present case.”

The ACCA held the military judge did not abuse her discretion in denying the defense challenge for cause. Relying on United States v. Elfayoumi, 66 M.J. 354, 357 (C.A.A.F. 2008), the court noted that panel members are also members of society who may have strongly-held personal views which is part of the “human condition.” In this case, a reasonable observer understanding the human condition would not question the neutrality, impartiality, and fairness of the proceeding.

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