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 March 27, 2015

Enlisted promotion ceremony The Edwards Enlisted Promotion Ceremony is 3 p.m., March 31 in the base theater. Promotees and commanders will be in service dress. Uniform of the day for all other attendees will be uniform of the day or business casual. CPTS delayed opening The 412th Comptroller Squadron will delay opening until 11 a.m.,...
 
 

Pursuing dreams to fly, fight and win

Have you ever been told you didn’t have what it takes while pursuing a goal? Did you believe it? I did. My final year in college, the Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment commander met with each senior to discuss our Air Force future. When asked what I hoped to do, like most of my peers...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds

Edwards joint maintenance team completes significant JSF propulsion verification event

Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds A joint team of U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy maintainers, DOD employees and Pratt and Whitney contractors work on an F135 engine March 17 as part of a week-long to provide verified tec...
 

 
Air Force photograph by Jet Fabara

Edwards heroes save coworker’s life

Air Force photograph by Jet Fabara Left to right: Moses Zamora, Neil Edwards, Robin “Bubba” Hairston, and Derrick Shannon are heavy equipment operators with the 412th Civil Engineer Group who saved the life of their...
 
 

Edwards CAP squadron to host open house

Edwards AFB’s Civil Air Patrol Squadron will host an open house will be held at the Oasis Community Center 6-8 p.m., March 31. The public is invited to attend and enjoy the squadron cadet program demonstrations. Cadets will be sharing their CAP training experience in the following cadet programs: * Aerospace Education including remotely controlled aircraft and...
 
 
pageant

2015 Edwards Royalty crowned

Courtesy photograph The new Edwards Community Queens were crowned March 21 during the 2015 pageant held at the Oasis Community Center. They are (back row from left) Miss (Danika Blake), Teen Miss (Ariana Medina), Junior Miss (H...
 




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=""> <strike> <strong>