Winning a sexual assault court-martial can be challenging. Juries tend to side with alleged sexual assault victims. In the military, service members are trained to “believe the victim.” They are taught that false allegations of sexual assault do not exist. To win a sex crime case in the military, your defense lawyer can focus on several key areas:
- Consent: The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no consent. A skilled defense lawyer can present evidence to show that consent existed or create doubt about whether there was consent. Usually, this is done by a skillful cross-examination of the victim and law enforcement.
- Mistake of fact as to consent: If there is evidence that sexual contact occurred between the victim and the accused and that the accused had an honest and reasonable belief that the victim consented, the jury must find the accused not guilty. The state of mind of the accused, at the time, is crucial to this defense. Once there is evidence raised that a mistake of fact may have existed in the mind of the accused, then the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the mistake did not exist.
- Alibi: Alibi is a defense where the defense shows that the accused could not have committed the offense because he was elsewhere and not at the crime scene. The defense needs evidence to support this defense.
- Motive to fabricate: The defense can show that the victim has a motive to fabricate, mislead, or exaggerate the allegations for various reasons, such as revenge, monetary gain, for sympathy, or to avoid being punished for her own misconduct.
- Attack the credibility of the witnesses: Another way to win a sexual assault case in the military is to discredit the government’s witnesses on cross-examination. A skilled defense lawyer must attack the memory, motive, bias, truthfulness, and credibility of prosecution witnesses.
- Create reasonable doubt: In a court-martial, the prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense can create doubt by attacking the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. This is done in opening and closing arguments and on cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses. The accused, if credible and well-prepared, can also create doubt by testifying in his defense.