Pre-Trial Publicity

Military Law Attorney Representing Service Members in the U.S. and Internationally

Members of the military who have been accused of a crime have a constitutional right to a trial uninfluenced by unfair and prejudicial pretrial publicity. Due to recent trends, this right has become increasingly jeopardized by media attention and public opinion. A current example of this phenomenon is illustrated by the pervasive media coverage of the case involving Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, as the matter has been reported with a level of intensity that could lead to negative speculation, misinformation, and prejudice. Military law lawyer Philip D. Cave defends service members facing charges throughout the U.S. and in military bases around the world. As an experienced court-martial attorney, he has the poise required to handle a highly publicized case and mitigate any adverse exposure that may affect his client’s right to a fair trial.

Rights of Defendants Regarding Pre-Trial Publicity

Due process requires all courts-martial to be composed of members who are fair and impartial. This includes the right to a member panel whose evaluation is based solely on the evidence presented, rather than on any prejudgment that has occurred due to pretrial publicity. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that major trials will interest the public and that some potential jury members will form initial impressions of the case. Despite exposure to pretrial publicity, knowledge of the facts of the case (whether accurate or not), and even a formulated opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant, a member may only be disqualified if it is determined that the member is unable to put aside his or her prejudgment and evaluate the evidence impartially. U.S. v. Calley.

Although adverse pretrial publicity may not necessarily result in an unfair trial, pretrial publicity may be deemed unfair if the defendant can establish that there was either presumed prejudice or actual prejudice. U.S. v. Parker. Presumed prejudice requires pretrial publicity that is prejudicial and inflammatory, and has saturated the community. Actual prejudice exists when members of the court-martial panel have such fixed opinions that they cannot impartially judge the guilt of the defendant.

There are several legal procedures that may be available to neutralize the effect of widespread publicity on panel members. Extensive voir dire of panel members can help identify potential members who have been prejudiced by the media attention. A motion may be filed to sequester the members of the panel, preventing them from contact outside the court-martial proceedings. The presiding military judge may also order that the media be excluded from the courtroom. In addition, the defense may move to detail all panel members from another command or area, change venue, or detail additional members from outside the base or locality. On appeal, a defendant may also seek to have a conviction nullified on the ground that he or she was denied a fair trial in front of an impartial jury due to adverse pretrial publicity.

Consult a Military Law Lawyer When Fighting Charges Anywhere in the World

If you are facing a military court-martial or another type of adverse action, a military law attorney who can represent you with dedication and skill may be essential in receiving a fair trial. Attorney Philip D. Cave has served on active duty and gained substantial legal experience while working as a military prosecutor and defense counsel. Using his extensive knowledge of this complex area of the law, he has represented military personnel stationed on bases throughout the U.S., such as Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, San Antonio, and San Diego. Philip D. Cave also can assist service members stationed internationally, including in Italy, Germany, Spain, Great Britain, Korea, and Japan. To schedule a free initial consultation regarding your legal matter, call us by phone at 703-298-9562 or toll-free at 800-401-1583, or contact us online.