In Harris, the appellant pled guilty to a larceny and a robbery and was sentenced to sixteen months, RiR, and a BCD. The issue, a common one, is whether the MJ should have recused.
Appellant was initially charged with, among other things, robbing another Soldier of $55,000. He negotiated a plea agreement, which included his promise to request trial by military judge alone. Appellant tried to plead guilty in accordance with the agreement, but he was not provident to all aspects of the robbery charge. The convening authority withdrew from the agreement, and the military judge said of future proceedings:
The Appellant got himself a new deal and appeared before the same judge for the GP. The MJ said that he'd still be the judge and the defense challenged for implied bias based on the prior attempted guilty plea and associated providence inquiry. The MJ later asked the Appellant specifically if he was voluntarily proceeding MJA and with him still the MJ--to which the Appellant said yes. The court looks at three points to affirm.
1. An MJ has the discretion and often uses it to stay on a MJA case when she has previously rejected the providence of a guilty plea. "United States v. Winter, 35 M.J. 93 (C.M.A. 1992), is instructive on this point, for our superior court concluded that a military judge did not err in presiding over a contested bench trial after rejecting an improvident plea in the case."
2. There is no evidence of record that the forum choice was involuntary. "[H]is decision to enter a plea agreement, or his decision to remain bound by the plea agreement. These decisions are reserved to an accused at a court-martial; they cannot be outsourced to defense counsel. Florida v. Nixon, 543 U.S. 175, 187 (2004). The military judge specifically asked appellant whether his forum choice was voluntary, and he responded that it was. The military judge also asked appellant, Did you enter the agreement of your own free will?" Appellant responded, "Yes, Your Honor." Based on the circumstances, we do not doubt the voluntariness of any of appellant's decisions."
While not stated, the sentence seems reasonable for robbing another Soldier of $55,000.00, so arguably the MJ was not affected by the prior failed GP.
Disclaimer: Posts are the authors' personal opinions and do not reflect the position of any organization or government agency.
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