In United States v. Harrington, the court decided three issues.
(1) Was the evidence of communicating a threat legally sufficient? It was the court decided and affirmed the findings.
(2) Did the military judge err in denying a defense request that the members be informed of the maximum punishment for each specification of which convicted? It was the court decided. In this case the members were deciding a unitary sentence.
The military judge abused his discretion in denying Appellant’s request for an instruction on the maximum punishment for each individual offense because he did so based on an incorrect understanding of the law. Contrary to the military judge’s apparent understanding, he possessed the discretion to instruct the panel on the maximum punishments available for each individual offense, in addition to informing them of the maximum cumulative punishment available for all offenses.
The nub of the issue related to the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter was ten years.
And the court observed that "Further review of the record of trial demonstrates that Appellant’s concerns were not unfounded."
The effect of denying the instruction was the inability of the defense to argue that the President has set ten years as the maximum for involuntary manslaughter. The Appellant was sentenced to 14 years of confinement.
Given the focus placed on the involuntary manslaughter conviction by the Government during sentencing and under the specific facts of this case, we cannot be confident that the military judge’s denial of the requested instruction did not substantially influence the adjudged sentence.
(3) Was it an error for the victim's parents to give their unsworn statements through questions and answers from the trial counsel? The defense had objected to the procedure.
Once again, this Court is presented with the question whether a novel approach toward the delivery of a victim’s unsworn statement exceeds what the President has authorized under R.C.M. 1001(c)(5), and again we conclude that it does. See Edwards, 82 M.J. at 241 (finding reversible error when the military judge allowed the victim’s designee to present his unsworn victim statement in the form of a video slideshow set to background music). Presentation of the victim’s unsworn statement via a question-and-answer format with trial counsel violates the Rules for Courts-Martial because it contravenes the principle that an unsworn victim statement belongs solely to the victim or the victim’s designee. Id. (first citing United States v. Hamilton, 78 M.J. 335, 342 (C.A.A.F. 2019); and then citing Barker, 77 M.J. at 378).
The court found the errors prejudicial and set aside the sentence. On a separate note,
Although the interests of victims and the government often align, we note that this is not always the case. See, e.g., United States v. Horne, 82 M.J. 283, 289-90 (C.A.A.F. 2022) (holding that trial counsel committed unlawful command influence when she instructed investigators not to interview the victim’s husband at the special victims’ counsel’s request).
Judge Maggs concurs and dissents in part. He agrees the evidence was legally sufficient, but he disagrees with the prejudice finding and would affirm the findings and sentence.
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Amendments to UCMJ Since 1950 (2024 ed.)
Amendments to RCM Since 1984 (2024 ed.)
Amendments to MRE Since 1984 (2024 ed.)
Army Crim. L. Deskbook
J. App. Prac. & Pro.