Witness Competency and the Admissibility of Evidence in a Trial by Court Martial

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At a court martial the prosecution has the burden of proof. This means that if they are unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have committed the crime you’ve been accused of, you will walk free. One of the ways in which the prosecution will try to prove their case is through the direct examination of witnesses.

The Format of Trial Proceedings 

The court martial will begin with opening statements from both the prosecution and defense. Each side will present their argument as well as evidence they have to support it. After this they will call their witnesses and question them through direct examination, attempting to prove statements that support their arguments.

The prosecution will call its witnesses first and when it has finished it will rest its case. Once this occurs, the defense will decide whether it wishes to call its own witnesses for direct examination. This decision generally hinges on whether the prosecution’s case seemed to be convincing. If the defense believes that the prosecution has put on a good case, it will likely call its own witnesses to testify. During direct examination, the defense attorney will ask important questions in order to have the witness share details that you are trying to get across. This testimony serves as a credible source of information to combat the prosecution’s narrative of what occurred.

Witness Competency

Witnesses must be considered competent in order to be called upon unless the Military Rules of Evidence (MRE) state otherwise. According to the MRE, “A witness may testify to a matter only if evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter.”

Relevancy of Evidence

It’s also important to understand that irrelevant evidence is inadmissible. Evidence is considered relevant if:

  1. It has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and  
  2. The fact is of consequence in determining the action. 

However, relevant evidence may still be inadmissible if the U.S. Constitution (as applied to members of the Armed Forces); a federal statute that applies to trial by court martial; or the Military Rules of Evidence state otherwise.

Your attorney may decide not to call your witnesses, but will still cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.

The Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC Helps Military Members in Colorado Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

The U.S. Government has an interest in obtaining a conviction as soon as possible, as it does not wish to gain negative publicity about one of its service members. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced military attorney as soon as possible. If you are a military service member and have been charged with a crime under the UCMJ, the Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC can help. We proudly serve our military members, who sacrifice so much for our country. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

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