No one wants a rapist going free, but no one’s rights can be upheld without due process and the rule of law.
An enlisted Coast Guard man’s 2012 rape conviction was recently thrown out by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The seven person jury was packed with five women, and incredibly, four of them were professional advocates for victims of sexual assault. According to the Washington Times, Judge Margaret A. Ryan stated that the four admirals who put the court-martial’s jury pool together produced an illegal “gender-based court stacking.” She also suggested that what took place amounted to unlawful command influence.
This implies that an officer in command used rank to manipulate the trial. The five-judge panel was unanimous.
“[T]he error in this case is both so obvious and so egregious that it adversely affected not only Appellant’s right to a fair trial by an impartial panel, but also the essential fairness and integrity of the military justice system,” Judge Ryan stated.
The court further argued that the conviction would never have happened without this “gender-based court stacking.” The evidence against the enlisted man was apparently so weak that one hearing officer recommended the charges be dropped. He was overruled by the admiral in charge.
It’s not difficult to understand how this may have happened. There’s been tremendous pressure on the military to crack down on such incidents among claims that sexual assault is rampant within the armed forces. It’s not hard to imagine a commanding officer doing what he could to ensure a conviction.
If the victim was raped, she deserves to see justice. If the trial was weighted, there can be no justice.
Luckily, for this enlisted man, wiser heads eventually prevailed.