United States v. Barker

77 M.J. 377 (2018)

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United States v. Barker

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
77 M.J. 377 (2018)

Facts

Airman First Class Thomas Barker (defendant) was convicted of possessing and viewing child pornography that included images of violent sexual acts against young children. Several of the children in the materials had been identified, including one known in real life as KF. KF had written and signed general victim-impact statements for cases involving her images. The trial counsel (plaintiff) in Barker’s court-martial obtained redacted copies of KF’s statements from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assuming that KF would not want to be contacted about the case, the trial counsel did not try to find KF’s contact information and never contacted her about the case. Barker’s sentence was decided by the military judge. During the sentencing proceeding, the trial counsel offered KF’s victim-impact statements as evidence under Rule for Courts-Martial (RCM) 1001A, which allowed victims to be heard at a sentencing proceeding through unsworn statements. Barker objected to the statements on several grounds, including an objection that trial counsel had not contacted KF and given her the choice of whether to present a statement in the case. The military judge conducted a balancing test under Military Rule of Evidence 403, found that the statements were more probative than prejudicial, and admitted the statements under RCM 1001A. The judge then sentenced Barker to 30 months’ confinement, a reduction in rank to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a bad-conduct discharge. On appeal, Barker argued that KF’s victim-impact statements were not admissible under RCM 1001A. The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the sentence, and Barker appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ryan, J.)

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