Commentary

June 6, 2014

It’s About the Fairness of the Process

Col. Michael G. Vecera
86th Airlift Wing staff judge advocate

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany†-†Occasionally, folks around the base will ask me after a court-martial, “What do you think about the result?” The question comes up more often when the accused member is acquitted or when the punishment appears to be somewhat lenient. This occasionally causes me to scratch my head a bit. The apparent implication is that I would expect a conviction and a severe punishment in every case brought to court.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a Staff Judge Advocate, my job is to ensure the fair and proper administration of justice. While I give advice to commanders on what action should be taken to address allegations of misconduct, my goal always is to assist commanders in enforcing fair, even-handed discipline across the installation. Even though the prosecutors in my office work for me as they zealously represent the government in court, my allegiance is to the proper administration of the military justice system.

My overall concern in every case is that both the prosecution and defense represent their respective clients effectively, ethically, and professionally. In my supervisory review of a case prior to a court-martial, my primary objective is to ensure both sides have had the full and fair opportunity to take advantage of every tool at their disposal as they prepare for trial.
After the court-martial, my discussion with the participants, spectators, and sometimes with court members, is focused on whether the case was competently and professionally presented by both sides.

The outcome of a case, for the most part, is really irrelevant to the overall goal of the fair administration of military justice. All of us should certainly be concerned if there is ever a reasonable belief that the outcome is somehow unfair or inappropriate. But for those with the first-hand knowledge regarding how a case was presented in court (participants, spectators, or court members), they generally attest to the fairness and integrity of the process and the competency of the prosecution and defense. That is how I know our system works.

Acquittals, just as much as convictions can show us that the system works. Light and harsh punishments alike show us the system works. If the process was conducted fairly and effectively, then the outcome, whatever it may be, is justice.

In addressing substantiated misconduct, my job is definitely not to recommend a severe punishment in every case. My goal is always to provide a just and fair recommendation to commanders, taking into consideration the offense along with all matters in aggravation, mitigation and extenuation. In a court-martial or any other military justice action, the fairness of the process, and just as important, the perception of fairness, is so much more critical than the outcome.

So when someone asks me what I think about the result of a court-martial that was well-executed by both the prosecution and defense, I usually simply say, “Justice worked.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

News Briefs July 24, 2014

Webster fall classes Webster University will be running the following classes this upcoming fall terms: FINC 5000 Finance, Aug. 17-Oct. 16, Wednesdays 5:30-9 p.m.; and FINC 5880 Advanced Corporate Finance; Oct. 19-Dec. 19, Wednesdays from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Each term/class will have the same 10 students for both classes. Call 661-258-8501 or visit Webster University at...
 
 
edwards-F35a

Joint Strike Fighter ITF ground testing F-35 gun

Lockheed Martin photograph by Darin Russell An F-35A, tail number AF-2, fires a burst of rounds down range at the Gun Harmonizing Range July 17. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force at Edwards AFB is in the proce...
 
 

The unseen leader

Over the years, I’ve seen many leaders come and go. The ones I admired, I took note of the traits I wished I had, as well as the ones I already possessed. It took me a long time to realize some of my personal and professional weaknesses were the very areas I gravitated toward in...
 

 
Air Force photograph by Patric Lovato

Outdoor Rec provides excursions, arsenal for summer activities

Air Force photograph by Patric Lovato Members of the Edwards AFB Outdoor Recreation staff pose with one of ODR’s new paddle boards. ODR offers anything from surfboards and wet suits to mountain bikes and kayaks for your s...
 
 

NASA’S American Eatery (Bldg. 4825)

July 27-30 Lunch Specials 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday Three pieces fried chicken Mashed potatoes and gravy Vegetables Tuesday Pork carnitas Refried beans and Spanish rice Wednesday Pepper steak over white rice Thursday Teriyaki chicken Fried rice and egg roll Friday Bake cod Macaroni and cheese Broccoli All Blue Plate Specials — $7.89 Drink...
 
 

Final rule puts more teeth into Military Lending Act

The Defense Department July 21 closed loopholes to protect U.S. men and women in uniform from predatory lending practices, President Barack Obama said this morning at the 116th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The heightened level of financial and consumer-rights protection against unscrupulous practices, called the final rule of the Military...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>