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.


 
 

 

Gaining Altitude – Growth Opportunities for the Week Through our character – an opportunity to reflect on important issues in our community

- Have you ever wanted to be part of something bigger than yourself-to make a difference in this world?  Will you be ready when the time comes?  Winston Churchill put it this way: “To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance...
 
 

It is my honor and privilege

How do you respond when someone says thank you? Do you smile and nod your head? Do you say, “No problem.”? How about, “I am just doing my job.” Perhaps a thank you catches you off guard and you fail to provide a response at all? I understand all of these reactions. It is easy...
 
 

Look past 1947 for Air Force roots

The Air Force officially turns 67 this month, but my uncle Gino thinks it’s older. He’s 90, and the lone surviving brother of my father. Both of them served in World War II, as did two of their siblings. My father was in the Navy, as was his eldest brother, Europeo (his real name, I...
 

 
Untitled-1

Suicide prevention more than a month-long campaign

WASHINGTON (AFNS) – All Airmen have a responsibility that lasts much longer than a one-month campaign. This responsibility extends beyond ourselves and includes our work environment, our families, friends, fellow Airmen ...
 
 

New paradigm aims to ‘zeroize’ sexual assault

Why does the U.S. Air Force need a Sexual Assault Awareness Month? Is it really a problem? Isn’t sexual assault more prevalent outside the military? Where do these statistics come from anyway? Is it realistic to aim for zero assaults? Thankfully, these outrageous questions represent the vestiges of a retreating mindset. A new paradigm aims...
 
 

Gaining Altitude – Growth Opportunities for the Week of 29 Aug

Through our character – an opportunity to reflect on important issues in our community - Labor Day is a holiday that is held in honor of working people but we must see work as more than something we do to earn a paycheck.  Work is honorable because God establishes Himself as the very first worker...
 




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>