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 September 26, 2014

Varicella vaccine available The 412th Medical Group Immunization Clinic now has the Varicella vaccine available for children 12 months and older who are TRICARE beneficiaries. The clinic is open 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; and noon-4:30 p.m., Wednesdays. For questions or concerns, call the clinic at 661-277-3427.  Blood drive The next American...
 
 

When leaders earn their keep

It’s no secret that a key to being a good leader, military or otherwise, is taking care of your people. I strongly believe Airmen aren’t able to perform at their peak if their personal lives are in disarray. Whether financial woes, marital issues, illnesses or other troubles, it’s tough to be at your best when...
 
 
road-closure

Road closure in support of new bulk fuel storage construction

Beginning Oct. 6, barriers will be set across the intersection of S. Muroc Dr. and Wolfe Ave., and also across S. Muroc Drive and Sellar Ave. The closure is necessary to install a new eight-inch fuel line across South Muroc. Tr...
 

 
aafes-retirees

Edwards Exchange honors military retirees

To pay tribute to military veterans’ enduring sacrifices, the Edwards Air Force Base Exchange will salute America’s 2.4 million military retirees with “Still Serving” events, a week of special savings a...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

Local NCO honored by Dodgers

Courtesy photograph Tech. Sgt. Robert Sumner, 412th Security Forces Squadron, sits in the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout Aug. 23 before a game against the New York Mets. Sumner was honored as the Veteran of the Game that day. The L...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Jet Fabara

Edwards Abilities Expo Oct. 9

Air Force photograph by Jet Fabara Michael Botte, 412th Communications Squadron Information Technology professional, initiates a call Sept. 22 via a video communication device. The video communication devices are provided throu...
 




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>