United States v. Smith

27 M.J. 242 (1988)

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United States v. Smith

United States Court of Military Appeals
27 M.J. 242 (1988)

Facts

Army First Lieutenant Rickie Smith (defendant) was accused of sexually assaulting a female officer. Smith denied that he was the assailant. A general court-martial was convened to try the case. Of the 10 court-martial members initially selected by the convening authority, only two males were available for Smith’s trial. A legal clerk in the staff judge advocate’s office was tasked with finding alternate member options. The clerk believed that office policy required providing at least two females for the panel of a court-martial involving a sex crime because females would understand the victim better than would males. There were no available females on the convening authority’s list of proposed alternates. The clerk tried multiple avenues to locate other females to serve on the panel but found only one. The clerk then asked a trial counsel who was not assigned to Smith’s case for his suggestions, and one of his suggested servicemembers was available. The clerk added the two females to the list of available alternates, and the list was sent to the convening authority. The convening authority selected the two females and several males from the list, plus males who were not on the list. At trial, Smith was convicted. After trial, one of Smith’s attorneys happened to talk to the clerk in another setting and discovered how the panel had been chosen. The clerk’s superiors denied the existence of a policy to select females as members of sex-crime court-martials. However, several individuals who had been involved in the selection process, including the convening authority, admitted to having a preference for selecting female members for sex-crime cases with female victims. On appeal, Smith argued that the members of his court-martial had been chosen improperly.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Everett, C.J.)

Concurrence (Cox, J.)

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