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Habeas & Coram

It's Over, but Occasionally not

[Military sexual assault, military defense lawyer, appellate military defense lawyer before the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Marine Corps court of criminal appeal.]

The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals has two recent decisions (Chapman and Erickson) which help explain when appellate and military appeals court jurisdiction is over, except maybe for coram nobis petitions. As a military defense lawyer I have experience with such coram nobis petitions.

United States v. Denedo is the most recent and famous success when the Supreme Court agreed that Denedo could proceed. Sadly, after winning in the Supreme Court, his military appellate defense counsel then missed a filing deadline and the case was dismissed. A pyrrhic victory. The Supreme Court later held in favor of the appellant in a later case on the issues raised by Denedo. That case is now applicable nation-wide. See, Padilla v. Kentucky, __ U.S. ___ (2009).

Military Appellate Jurisdiction Ends

In United States v. Chapman, 75 M.J. 598 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. 2016) (AFCCA), the court had a habeas corpus petition to consider. The court determined that all of Chapman's appeals were complete through the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) level. In Chapman he had not met the rigorous requirements to succeed in coram nobis. Reconsideration was denied. United States v. Chapman, Misc. Dkt. No. 2016-07 (A. F. Ct. Crim. App. 9 June 2016)(unpub.),

In United States v. Erickson, Misc. Dkt. No. 2016-09 (A. F. Ct. Crim. App. 9 June 2016)(unpub.), the same court applied Chapman to deny the habeas petition. In Erickson, the court said that, "Petitioner may later file a writ of error coram nobis.]" Slip op. at 2. The court again lays out the rather tough hurdles a coram nobis petitioner has to go through to gain relief.

Chapman actually is a rather notorious series of cases with the same accused. Originally, he was convicted of rape, attempted murder, sodomy, and burglary. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) and began serving his sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. United States v. Chapman, No. ACM 35564, 2006 CCA LEXIS 179, at *1-2 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. July 14, 2006)(unpub.), aff'd 65 M.J. 289 (C.A.A.F. 2007), cert. denied 552 U.S. 952 (2007). On 28 September 2012, the AFCCA denied a habeas petition.

While confined for his first court-martial, he was playing softball and disagreed with the umpire. So he took the baseball bat he was playing with and killed the umpire, who was himself something of a notorious prisoner. See, United States v. Fricke, 53 M.J. 149 (C.A.A.F. 2000). Reporting on the fight here and here. Note, Fricke was about a month away from leaving the USDB for parole.

Should you get to the stage of considering a coram nobis, your military defense lawyer should give you honest and straight advice about the chances of success and the complexity of the issues.

Coram nobis petitions would be filed with the military courts of appeal. A habeas petition would be filed in federal district court.

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