What are Crime Victim Rights in a Military Court Martial?

Rule 1001A Manual for Courts-Martial. Crime victims and presentencing in a Military Court Martial

In general.

A crime victim of an offense of which the accused has been found guilty has the right to be reasonably heard at a sentencing hearing relating to that offense. A victim under this rule is not considered a witness for purposes of Article 42(b). Trial counsel shall ensure the victim is aware of the opportunity to exercise that right. If the victim exercises the right to be reasonably heard, the victim shall be called by the court-martial. This right is independent of whether the victim testified during findings or is called to testify under R.C.M. 1001.

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Definitions regarding Crime Victim Rights in a Military Sentencing Proceedings

Crime victim.

For purposes of this rule, a “crime victim” is an individual who has suffered direct physical, emotional, or pecuniary harm as a result of the commission of an offense of which the accused was found guilty.

Victim impact.

For the purposes of this rule, “victim impact” includes any financial, social, psychological, or medical impact on the victim directly relating to or arising from the offense of which the accused has been found guilty.

Mitigation.

For the purposes of this rule, “mitigation” includes a matter to lessen the punishment to be adjudged by the court-martial or to furnish grounds for a recommendation of clemency.

Right to be reasonably heard.

Capital cases.

In capital cases, for purposes of this rule, the “right to be reasonably heard” means the right to make a sworn statement.

Non-capital cases.

In non-capital cases, for purposes of this rule, the “right to be reasonably heard” means the right to make a sworn or unsworn statement.

Content of Victim’s Statement in a Military Court Martial Sentencing Proceeding

The content of statements made under subsections (d) and (e) of this rule may include victim impact or matters in mitigation.

Sworn victim statement.

The victim may give a sworn statement under this rule and shall be subject to cross-examination concerning the statement by the trial counsel or defense counsel or examination on the statement by the court-martial, or all or any of the three. When a victim is under 18 years of age, incompetent, incapacitated, or deceased, the sworn statement may be made by the victim’s designee appointed under R.C.M. 801(a)(6). Additionally, a victim under 18 years of age may elect to make a sworn statement.

Unsworn victim statement.

The victim may make an unsworn statement and may not be cross-examined by the trial counsel or defense counsel upon it or examined upon it by the court-martial. The prosecution or defense may, however, rebut any statements of facts therein. The unsworn statement may be oral, written, or both. When a victim is under 18 years of age, incompetent, incapacitated, or deceased, the unsworn statement may be made by the victim’s designee appointed under R.C.M. 801(a)(6). Additionally, a victim under 18 years of age may elect to make an unsworn statement.

Procedure for presenting unsworn victim statement in a military court martial

After the announcement of findings, a victim who would like to present an unsworn statement shall provide a copy to the trial counsel, defense counsel, and military judge. The military judge may waive this requirement for good cause shown.

When the military judge waives the notice requirement under this rule, the military judge may conduct a session under Article 39(a) to ascertain the content of the victim’s anticipated unsworn statement.

Upon good cause shown, the military judge may permit the victim’s counsel to deliver all or part of the victim’s unsworn statement.

  1. Discussion of Crime Victim Rights in a Military Court Martial:
  2. When the military judge waives the notice requirement under this rule, the military judge may conduct a session under Article 39(a) to ascertain the content of the victim’s anticipated unsworn statement.
  3. If there are numerous victims, the military judge may reasonably limit the form of the statements provided.
  4. A victim’s unsworn statement should not exceed what is permitted under R.C.M. 1001A(c) and may not include a recommendation of a specific sentence. Upon objection by either party or sua sponte , a military judge may stop or interrupt a victim’s unsworn statement that includes matters outside the scope of R.C.M. 1001A(c). A victim, victim’s counsel, or designee has no separate right to present argument under R.C.M. 1001(g).
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