Case against Air Force Academy cadet under question

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces recently conducted a hearing to decide whether a cadet was working as a confidential informant before testifying against a fellow cadet.

In both military and civilian criminal law cases, prosecutors have a duty to disclose information to the defense that may prove beneficial to a defendant's case. A recent hearing before the highest court in the Armed Forces involved this issue. On March 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held a rare hearing to decide whether a 2012 conviction should be overturned because of error by the prosecution.

The defendant cadet, who was convicted of abusive sexual contact against one female cadet and assaulting two male cadets in 2012, spent six months in confinement and was discharged from the Air Force Academy. The prosecution in the case used the testimony of one of the assaulted male cadets to support its case. The defendant appealed, arguing that the witness was working as a confidential informant under orders to follow him and report suspicious behavior, but that prosecutors did not reveal this to the defense before trial.

The prosecution argued that the cadet was not working as an informant during the time of the alleged incident. Thus, it did not need to reveal the witnesses' status to the defendant's attorney. The rare hearing - called a Dubay hearing -attempted to determine whether the witness was working as a confidential informant, and whether the prosecution's failure to disclose this was harmful to the defendant's case beyond a reasonable doubt. The CAAF has yet to issue a decision on the matter.

Ramifications of the case

For the last several years the armed services have attempted to crack down on improper sexual conduct in the military. This has meant aggressively prosecuting those service members alleged to have committed sexual assault or other sex crime and securing the assistance of confidential informants to root out the problem.

Whether the prosecution must reveal the identity of a confidential informant is a complicated area of the law. The period of discovery - the portion of the case in which each side prepares for trial - is often where each side either makes or breaks their case. If a significant part of the case rests on the reliability of a key witness, showing to a jury or the court whether that witnesses' testimony should be taken at face value is an important part of criminal defense.

If you have been accused of a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, there is a lot at stake. Not only your freedom, but your career and good name are on the line. At the Cody Law Firm, our team has significant experience helping service members accused of a crime defend their rights in a courts-martial or administrative discipline. Contact our office to discuss your case and your legal rights as soon as possible to begin mounting a defense.

Keywords: Military law, Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, improper sexual conduct, sexual assault, The Cody Law Firm.