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What You’re Up Against: The Court Martial Process in Japan

Facts and the Truth Aren’t Always Enough to Obtain Victory in a Court Martial Setting

What you expect to find in a court of law is justice. You expect that the facts will prove your case. You assume that the jury will understand, and that there’s very little the prosecution can do with the evidence they have.

The truth, however, is not nearly as optimistic. We’ve seen many service members walk into their court martial with this misunderstanding, and they all come out with the same realization: that they should have done more to prepare before their trial date.

The truth isn’t going to protect you in court. Alibis, excuses, and evidence won’t either. A discount defense counsel, or some recent law school graduate working in the JAG Corps, isn’t always going to help you. Depending on the crime, when the government sets its sights on you, there’s very little you can do to defend yourself. Criminal activities that were rarely prosecuted a few years ago have become targets for commands, prosecutors and Congress. Law enforcement has become proactive in searching for “criminals” to convict, and once they find them, they’ll visit your records and start asking questions to see if there are any additional “victims” to dig up.

We’ve been in this business a long time, and we’ve seen nearly every underhanded trick in the government’s playbook. Below are just a few of the more notorious examples of how military prosecutorial try to win at all costs.

Special Victim Prosectors Are the Best and Brightest in the JAG Corps—and They’re Out for Your Blood

You’d think the government would save their most talented judge advocates for the defense teams. On the contrary, they’ve been assigned to handle the growing flood of “sexual assault” and sex crime cases. It doesn’t matter that true incidents of sexual assault in the military are at their lowest level since 2006. If the government has even an inkling of evidence pointing you to an instance of sexual assault, then you’ll be facing off against some of the best-trained legal minds in the U.S. Military.

An SVP has more training and a better understanding of the law than most of the defense counsels assigned to defend military service members in court. This is by design, not chance. In most cases you’ll be provided a court martial attorney just out of law school, with only a handful of cases tried in court. And the more “experienced” attorneys are often no better. Their case history is likely filled with clients that have pleaded guilty to their crimes. That isn’t exactly the defense counsel that you want to have when you’re facing a possible sentence that includes prison time and mandatory sign up as a sex offender.

One SVP is Enough to Win the Case. Expect to See Two or More Prosecutors at Your Trial

You read that right. It is common practice for the government to send two or more prosecutors to any trial involving asexual assault. Or, if the case doesn’t involve sexual assault, a highly trained and experienced Senior Trial Counsel (STC) will pick it up. Again, this is a strategic decision by the U.S. Government to secure as many convictions as possible. In the eyes of government officials, you’re already guilty, so they’re not at all squeamish about throwing you under the bus and using your conviction as proof to drum up more money in their pursuit of the “War on Sexual Assault.”

That’s only just the beginning unfortunately. The prosecution also has an army of legal consultants, paralegal support, a Staff Judge Advocate, a Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, and trained law enforcement investigators prepared to take on your case at a moment’s notice. And what does your issued defense counsel receive you ask? Typically one paralegal assistant, and maybe not even that.

Your Military Defense Counsel Cannot Match the Government’s Budget

The seemingly endless amount of money the government will use to convict you comes from deep-pocketed lobbyists and high-minded “philanthropists” that are keen on changing policy and stopping perceived sexual assault crimes by making examples of others. This may sound nice in theory, but in practice it often means innocent service members are going to prison.

Your defense team typically won’t see a penny of this money. So while the prosecution has the means to fly out witnesses from wherever they are, and pay for expensive forensic testing at their own private investigative lab, you’ll only receive the scraps that fall off the table.

Law Enforcement Would Rather Protect Their Paychecks Than the Innocence of an Accused

Law enforcement members are always the first ones to investigate a crime. But while you may think they’re looking for the truth, the reality is they’re looking for evidence that will put you behind bars. They’ll even go so far as to ignore inconvenient evidence and testimony that says otherwise, or twist that evidence to ensure the jury sees it the way they want to see it, not how it really is.

Meanwhile, while they’re building a case against you, they’ll sit you down and politely ask you a few “innocent” questions. They’ll ask for your cooperation and tell you that if you do what they ask you won’t have a problem. This, of course, is a complete lie, and the more open you are about the case, the more they’ll have to secure a conviction in court. If a service member agrees to take a polygraph test, and the test shows that the service member is telling the truth, interrogators may lie outright and say it came back false. Anything that will secure a conviction quickly and allow them to move on to the next case is fair game in their book.

The Prosecution has Dedicated Access to the USACIL Labs. You, On the Other Hand, Are Out of Luck

The United States Army Criminal Investigative Lab (USACIL) is one of the most advanced forensic testing facilities in the world. It’s also one of the most exclusive. You’d expect that in a fair trial, the government would provide lab access to both the defense and the prosecution for testing. This, of course, isn’t the case. Even a military-issued defense counsel will have a hard time accessing these facilities.

Other facilities that specialize in specific areas of research and evidence are also difficult to utilize by the accused service member and his legal counsel. The Defense Computer Forensic Lab, the Tripler Army Medical Center Drug Testing Facility, and the Walter Reed Institute of Research are just a few of the facilities that the prosecution has complete access too, and you do not.

Government Making Deals for Witness Testimony—It’s All in a Day’s Work

The government has the option to offer deals to witnesses that will speak against you in court. Those deals include reduced jail time, more lenient sentencing, and even total immunity from legal action against them. If the defense even considered offering a witness something tangible on the side for positive testimony, they’d be highly scrutinized – to say the least. It seems that once again, the government holds all the cards.

These witnesses can cause an immense amount of damage to you and your court martial case. To defeat them, you need a defense attorney that is skilled at cross-examination. When it comes to cases like this, the only way to successfully secure a not-guilty verdict is to catch the witness in a lie, thus undermining his or her testimony in the eyes of the jury.

You Won’t be Detailed an Attorney Until After Charges are Preferred

Waiting to hire a lawyer is one of the most harmful things a service member can do while being investigated for a crime. He or she may be told by investigators that the investigation is a formality and that charges may not be brought up at all. In reality, law enforcement is already building a case, keeping the service member completely in the dark until it’s too late.

The longer law enforcement can postpone your hiring a defense counsel, the more likely they are to win the case, or even get you to confess to the crime. This is why we always recommend you contact an attorney as soon as you realize you’re suspected of a crime or being investigated. Not doing so could put your defense attorney months behind the prosecution. Leads dry up, evidence disappears, and sooner or later its possible you’ll have no recourse but to plead guilty.

A Defense Counsel Issued by the Government is Still Working Within the System

Defense attorneys just starting out in the military are well aware of just how easy the prosecution has it. Access to the best forensic specialists, infinite staff at their disposal, and advancing the desires and goals of the senior staff are all benefits of working for the prosecution.

So it comes as no surprise that some of these defense attorneys are just trying to “put in their time” until they can secure their next assignment. And since they aren’t interested in burning any bridges in the meantime, they’ll be hesitant to do what it takes to win the case for their client. Essentially, they’re in a position where they’re told to fight the system, while still being part of the system.

This highlights one of the reasons why both Mr. Bilecki and Mr. Tipon chose to leave the military and pursue careers as defense attorneys in the civilian world. You can’t possibly fight the system while you’re still a part of it.

The Government Doesn’t Think You Deserve a Fair Shot at a Trial. But We Do.

You deserve to be represented by an aggressive and highly capable team of defense attorneys at your trial. You deserve to even the odds with tried and true gunslingers. If you’ve chosen to fight the charges brought against you by the military, and you know exactly what’s at stake if you lose, then we want to hear from you.

The law firm of Bilecki & Tipon takes calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The sooner you make that call, the sooner we can set you up with an initial consultation, and the sooner we can begin our pre-trial assessment and investigation into your case. Call TODAY at (800) 996-9747 and together we’ll take the fight to the prosecution.