Standard of Review
Court Martial Lawyers – Alexandra González-Waddington & Michael Waddington Attorneys at Law
Overview of the standard of review:
- Appellate courts review a military judge’s decision to admit or exclude evidence for an abuse of discretion. United States v. Clayton , 67 M.J. 283, 286 (C.A.A.F. 2009).
- When an error is not objected to at trial, appellate courts apply a plain error analysis. If the accused meets his burden to show plain error, “the burden shifts to the Government to prove that any constitutional error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”
United States v. Magyari , 63 M.J. 123 (C.A.A.F. 2006)
- Whether statements are testimonial under Crawford is a question of law (Library of Congress: Military Law) that is reviewed de novo. United States v. Clayton , 67 M.J. 283, 286 (C.A.A.F. 2009).
- Availability of witnesses and the “good faith” of government efforts to procure witnesses is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. United States v. Cabrera- Frattini , 65 M.J. 241, 245 (C.A.A.F. 2007).
- Harmlessness analysis
- Any evidence admitted in violation of the Confrontation Clause is reversible unless it is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Gardinier , 67 M.J. 304, 306 (C.A.A.F. 2009)
- “In assessing harmlessness in the constitutional context…[t]he question is whether there is a reasonable possibility that the evidence complained of might have contributed to the conviction.” United States v. Gardinier , 67 M.J. 304, 306 (C.A.A.F. 2009) (citing Chapman v. California , 386 U.S. 18 (1967)).
- The C.A.A.F. “frequently looks to the factors set forth in Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673 (1986), to assess whether an error is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.” United States v. Gardinier , 67 M.J. 304, 306 (C.A.A.F. 2009).
- The Van Arsdall factors include: “the importance of the witness’ testimony in the prosecution’s case, whether the testimony was cumulative, the presence or absence of evidence corroborating or contradicting the testimony of the witness on material points, the extent of cross-examination otherwise permitted, and…the overall strength of the prosecution’s case.” Delaware v. Van Arsdall , 475 U.S. 673, 684 (1986)