TRIAL STAGES: Post-Trial Hearings: Findings and Rulings

2008 (Transition)

United States v. Webb, 66 M.J. 89 (a military judge did not abuse her discretion in ordering a new trial in a drug use case where the government failed to disclose impeachment evidence concerning the witness who was assigned as the observer of the accused’s provision of a urine sample for drug testing; evidence that the observer, a link in the chain of custody, had received nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 for dishonesty may have raised serious questions in the minds of the factfinder concerning the identity of the urine tested and whether it was unaltered when it was tested; this point may have borne extra weight with the factfinder where the government expressly prohibited having such persons serve as observers; alone or in conjunction with the accused’s denial of use, this evidence may have raised reasonable doubt in the factfinders’ minds as to the accused’s guilt; furthermore, the possession of this evidence may have altered the accused’s trial strategy -- he may not have testified; under all of these circumstances, the military judge cannot be faulted for concluding that it was probable that had the prosecution provided the nonjudicial punishment to the defense, it would have produced a substantially more favorable result for the accused -- in other words, it undermined confidence in the outcome of the trial; accordingly, in this case, the government’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence affecting a witness’s credibility that the accused specifically asked the government to disclose was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt). 



United States v. Key
, 65 M.J. 172 (at a post-trial hearing to determine whether a government informant withheld relevant information from the defense that affected the outcome of appellant’s trial and whether appellant was entitled to a new trial, the military judge erred by not allowing the trial defense counsel to testify as to what transpired during that counsel’s pretrial interview of the informant; the defense claimed that the informant purposely withheld information about whether the government paid her for her testimony; the defense counsel’s testimony would have been relevant to a determination of the informant’s credibility and whether she purposely withheld impeachment evidence from the defense; by refusing to permit the defense counsel to testify at the post-trial hearing and by considering only the informant’s testimony concerning the pretrial interview, the military judge unduly restricted the ambit of the post-trial hearing).



United States v. Meghdadi, 60 M.J. 438 (in denying appellant’s motion for a post-trial Article 39(a) session to consider whether a mistrial or new trial should be granted, the military judge misapprehended the purpose of the Article 39(a) session, made factual findings that were not supported by the record, applied an erroneous legal standard, misperceived the evidentiary value of an audio tape, made no record of any weighing of the new evidence against the evidence at trial, either on the merits or in sentencing, and failed adequately to address appellant’s claim that fraud on the court allegedly perpetrated by a government witness had a substantial contributing effect on the sentence adjudged; further, on an issue related entirely to witness credibility, the military judge declined the opportunity personally to hear the testimony of witnesses and, in the process, denied counsel the opportunity to develop that testimony in an adversarial forum; viewing these circumstances in the aggregate, we conclude that the military judge’s reasons and ruling were clearly untenable and that they constitute a prejudicial abuse of discretion).

Home Page |  Opinions & Digest  |  Daily Journal  |  Scheduled Hearings  |  Search Site