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Military justice should not feel like double jeopardy

Readers may be familiar with the concept of double jeopardy, which generally prohibits a criminal defendant from being tried for the same criminal offense twice. In the military justice system, a court-martial might be viewed as the equivalent of a criminal trial. Why, then, does a recent news article profile a marine who is facing a second court-martial?

The answer is that the charges are not technically the same. The first court martial involved sexual misconduct allegations, whereas the new charges alleged that the marine made false statements.

As background, the marine was a history instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He underwent a court-martial in 2013 on charges that he had sex with two students. One of the students claimed that the sex had been non-consensual. That trial resulted in a conviction on five lesser charges, but an acquittal on the rape charge.

In 2014, an administrative board reviewed the matter for the purpose of determining whether the marine could remain in the service. That board concluded that the marine had been wrongly convicted. That outcome apparently bolstered the marine’s confidence, and he approached the Washington Post about the matter. Yet that may have a misstep, as the paper’s investigation discovered false testimony.

The Post article prompted the Marine Corps to launch a new investigation. Several months ago, the Marine Corps charged the marine with conduct unbecoming an officer and for making a false official statement. The prosecutor in the new case is reportedly seeking punishment that includes nearly three years of imprisonment, expulsion from service and a $200,000 fine.

Source: Washington Post, “Marine charged in Naval Academy sexual misconduct case to face second court-martial,” John Woodrow Cox, June 21, 2016

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