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Court-martial: As is often the case, "intent" at heart of matter

In many justice proceedings, both in the civilian world and in the military alike, whether or not an accused committed a certain act is not at issue.

A judge or jury might know with certainty -- and with it being unquestioned by defense counsel -- that a defendant in a given case engaged in a sexual act, possessed an illegal drug, was in possession of stolen property, violated terms of a probation order or committed some other illegal act.

That being a given, the central question in many trials and military court-martial proceedings focuses upon intent.

Meaning state of mind. What was an individual thinking just prior to and during the commission of an act that has brought him before military authorities?

A representative example of intent being a key issue in a court-martial is evidenced by a proceeding that is currently underway involving the fatal shooting of one Army soldier by another at a missile site in Jordan last year.

The soldier on trial pulled the trigger that killed his comrade. No one disputes that. Indeed, he has already offered to plead guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter, maintaining that the shooting was accidental.

Not so, says the prosecutor, who states that the fatality resulted from "a deliberate, methodical, thoughtful kill-shot" that was taken because of hatred harbored by the accused toward his victim.

A defense attorney in the matter contends that, while his client indeed pulled the trigger, he thought the gun was unloaded. As such, he lacked any intent at all to harm the victim.

The accused waived his right to a jury trial, and his fate will now be decided by a single officer presiding in the court-martial.

The proceeding is expected to conclude within a matter of days.

Source: The Gazette, "Intent is focus of Fort Carson soldier's court-martial," Tom Roeder, June 16, 2015

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