Court martial conviction stands despite prosecutor’s misconduct
03/11/2014 7:56 AM
03/11/2014 8:11 AM
Memo to military prosecutors: You can repeatedly misbehave in court and still win a conviction.
That, at any rate, is one take-away lesson from a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
In a rather remarkable 3-2 decision, the court found that “ significant prosecutorial misconduct” occured during the court martial of Marine Corps enlisted man Charles C. Hornback. Nonetheless, the court also concluded that Hornback “ was not prejudiced” by the prosecutor’s misconduct, in part because the trial judge did everything possible to remove the taint.
The unnamed prosecutor, according to the appeals court, “ repeatedly and persistently elicited improper testimony, despite repeated sustained objections as well as admonition and instruction from the military judge.” The prosecutor the court observed, appeared to be “ inexperienced, ill prepared, and unsupervised in this case,” prompting the court to “ wonder what her supervisors were doing during the course of Appellant’s trial.”
The misconduct was “ sustained and severe,” the court said. The prosecutor made “ clumsy” efforts to slip in improper testimony. The misconduct was “ repeated.” The prosecutor called the defendant “ a criminal infection that is a plague to the Marine Corps.” The judge sustained defense objections 15 times, and repeatedly summoned attorneys for discussions at the bench.
“ During this court-martial, trial counsel engaged in prosecutorial misconduct virtually from start to finish,” Judge Kevin A. Ohlson wrote in dissent.
Doesn’t matter. Mr. Hornback will have to live with his bad conduct discharge.
Join the Discussion
The Wichita Eagle is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.