CAAF Throws Out Conviction Based Upon “Implied Bias”

On 18 June 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), in United States v. Woods, 74 M.J. 238 (2015), vacated a court-martial conviction on account of a military judge’s denial of a “implied bias” challenge.  In sum, a prospective jury (panel) member filled our her pretrial questionnaire, and chillingly wrote, in relevant part, “the enforcement of the you are guilty until prove innocent [standard] is essential because the military needs to be held to a higher standard for reasons of mission.”  To make matters worse, this prospective juror was the senior member (highest ranking) on the jury. Defense counsel attempted to have her struck from the jury, prior to its convening, as part of the voir dire process, however the military judge shortsightedly denied the request.  CAAF was sufficiently troubled by her statement that it reversed the conviction on “implied bias” grounds. The lesson learned is that military defense counsel should always carefully read those “panel member sheets” long before trial, and have Woods in the back pocket, ready to cite, should a similar off the wall statement be made.

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