What type of evidence is admissible in a court-martial?
As prosecutors and defense attorneys prepare for the high-profile court-martial of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, some important evidentiary matters are now being decided. Military Judge Army Col. Jeffrey Nance recently ruled during a pretrial hearing that he would not admit any evidence of soldiers being wounded during the search for Bergdahl. This ruling is an important one for both sides in this monumental case that much of the nation is following.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl stands accused of desertion with intent to shirk important duties and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of his unit. It is alleged that Bergdahl left the post he was stationed at in Afghanistan in 2009. He was captured by the Taliban shortly afterward and held captive for five years, during which time he suffered ongoing beatings that left him with permanent physical and psychological injuries.
Prosecutors sought to introduce evidence related to a search mission involving a least six U.S. service members. While attempting to find Bergdahl, this search group was attacked and several soldiers suffered serious injuries. However, the defense has urged that the mission was shoddily planned and Bergdahl cannot be blamed for the entire chain of events occurring after his capture. The judge sided with the defense to exclude the evidence of injuries, believing it could be unfairly prejudicial to jurors.
Evidence During a Court-Martial
A general court-martial is quite similar to a trial in the American court system, with some notable exceptions. The rules of evidence in a court-martial are taken in large from the Federal Rules of Evidence. Just as in a federal trial, the defense can move prior to trial to exclude evidence on multiple grounds, including irrelevance, undue prejudice, and hearsay. The military judge presiding over the court-martial will hear testimony on both sides before ruling whether the evidence is admissible. Evidentiary matters can make all the difference in your defense, so consult with a military defense attorney as soon as possible for prompt legal assistance.