Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Negotiating for crime and punishment

2 soldiers get vastly different sentences for deadly crimes--the headline for a recent Washington Times piece.

O'Callahan redux?
JBLM and the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office began opening the doors to trading criminal cases about two years ago, said deputy prosecutor John Sheeran.
It’s a common procedure in military communities around the country where criminal suspects could be prosecuted in different courts.
For many years, U.S. court-martial jurisdiction rested on the accused being a member of the military and the crime having a "service connection." Two Supreme Court cases made this the rule: O'Callahan v. Parker, 395 U.S. 258 (1969), and Relford v. Commandant, 401 U.S. 355 (1971). In
Solorio v. United States, 483 U.S. 435 (1987), the Supreme Court reversed course to older practice and conditioned court-martial jurisdiction based solely on being a member of the military.

To continue:
Two soldiers from the same Joint Base Lewis-McChord [in Washington state] infantry battalion experienced two very different kinds of justice when they came home from training events a year apart and carried out deadly crimes.
 Pvt. Jeremiah Hill, prosecuted in Army court, received a sentence of 45 years in prison for knifing another soldier in the heart on a Lakewood street, the News Tribune reported
 Spc. Skylar Nemetz, prosecuted in Pierce County Superior Court, received a sentence of less than 14 years for causing the death of his wife, Danielle, when he accidentally shot her in the head with rifle.
Hill could have been prosecuted in a civilian court, where he likely would not have not received much more than 20 years for killing Geike, said the county prosecutor who handled the case for the year before it moved to military court. 
The military response to allegations of widespread sexual assaults and ineffective discipline continues to be of concern to the Congress and the media.  A frequent recommendation or response has been taking jurisdiction of such cases from commanders and the military.  The military has been strongly resisting Congressional ideas of taking sexual assault cases out of military control and jurisdictions.  Yet, actual practice on shared and negotiated jurisdiction seems to undercut the military's argument (and perhaps Congressional advocate's as well).

The military wants to keep jurisdiction because of the need to impose and maintain good order, discipline, and accountability.  But, if they share cases by negotiation, doesn't that undercut the very argument of why the commander needs to maintain control of the case?  Here is the reported "policy."
Pierce County tends to want military-related cases that involve civilians, or some cases in which crime victims might benefit from county-run domestic violence or sex assault services.
Generally, Sheeran said, JBLM wants cases in which soldiers commit crimes against other soldiers or when the majority of witnesses are military service members.
In addition, there are any number of cases where the military takes jurisdiction when the civilian prosecutor declines to prosecute or the military is not happy with the result of a civilian prosecution.

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