Friday, February 27, 2015

Great way to look like you are batting 1.000

A retired Navy JAG Corps lawyer, Commander Wayne L. Johnson, has written an interesting letter to Navy Times about a peculiarity in the U.S. Coast Guard's reporting of trial results: just include the convictions, never mind the acquittals:
As I was reading the results of Coast Guard courts-martial, I noticed something interesting about how the service provides the information to the media ["Coast Guard renders court-martial verdicts in late 2014," Jan. 27]. 
The other branches of the military release all of their court-martial results, including those where the verdict was not guilty, while the Coast Guard, as a matter of policy, provides only the convictions. To the uninformed it would appear the USCG has a 100 percent conviction rate, which of course is not true. 
Why does the Coast Guard not provide all the court-martial verdicts? The other services do this, but they do not release the names of those found not guilty, only the guilty. 
If you go back over the past two years, about a third of the results reported by the other services are not guilty — particularly in cases involving things like rape and indecent assault. 
The public should be told the whole story in that regard and not just be given this limited view by Coast Guard leaders. I imagine the senior officials at the USCG are only giving the conviction results to send a slanted, untrue message that everyone charged is being found guilty. 
It is also interesting that the Coast Guard does not provide the names of those convicted even though, unlike Article 15 or administrative discharges, the names of those convicted at a court-martial (at least general and special courts-martial) are public records. In fact, I do not recall seeing any of the other services posting summary court-martial results, only general and special. 
One would think the services would be more uniform as to what results they do and do not release. It is my belief the Coast Guard should adopt what its sister services in the Department of Defense are releasing.
Seems like a fair point. 

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