Court Martial Bloopers Part 1

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So the first blooper that we’re going to talk about, I’m gonna talk about happened in Baumholder Germany circa around the fall of 2007. So I’m a defense attorney. I’m defending a case, it’s like a classic, kind of like a barracks fight. My client was the E-5. He was accused of like conspiring with some E-2s and E-3s in the barracks to beat up this other E-3. And so we are there we did what I call a naked plea. People call a naked plea. It means like you plead guilty to something without benefit of a deal, but you contest the rest.

It gives us as the defense, the argument to be able to say, you know, he pleaded guilty to what he did, he took responsibility and this other stuff is a bunch of hooey, right? And so we just get down to the nitty gritty. So he had pleaded guilty and he does that to the judge alone. And then it turns to like the findings of the rest of the stuff that’s contested. And we had opted for an all officer panel in Baumholder Germany at this time. I kind of called them like co-presidents and realize that in military practice you often will get the same panel members. Not exactly the exact same for each case, but you’ll often see a repeat, right? And so I kind of called these guys like the co kernels, the co-presidents. I’d seen them multiple times. They knew me. Maybe they knew the prosecutors on this particular case.

There was a pretty junior prosecutor. And then there was an activated reservist who obviously had a lot of experience in the civilian world but didn’t really feel super comfortable with military procedure, which can be very different. And so this was sort of like, what’s going on over there, <laugh>. So after the trial, counsel reads the initial part of the script, like the, it’s a solemn moment and all the panel members have filed in and everyone’s there. And the judge is like, you know, trial counsel, you know, by whom is this court martial convened? And they stand out, the court martial convened by court martial convening order number, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then the judge says a few things. And then the trial counsel has to read out the names of the members who were there. It used to make me nervous because I hate, like, offending people by mispronouncing their name.

And so I always ask the bailiff like, Hey, go verify these names. And I always as a courtesy would like tell that to the defense so that when they’re doing boy deer, that they would feel comfortable. And like none of us needs to offend anybody. It’s like a pet peeve of mine. People have often mispronounced my name drives me nuts, right? So <laugh>, so after the trial counsel kind of fumbles through the names of the panel members. ’cause Clearly he had not bothered to like find out about their names. Then it comes the time when there’s this very long oath that you read to the panel to swear the panel in. The panel has an oath that they have to take and it’s in the script. And I used, I had committed to memory when I was a prosecutor. ’cause I thought, okay, this is one of the, somebody had told me like long ago, like, if you want to go above and beyond and you wanna establish your credibility, like demonstrate like, like this is what you do.

And so I committed its memory, it’s pretty long, but whatever. And then if I needed it, like I had it like written in big print and I always had it in my trial notebook. So it’s that moment when they’re supposed to go swear in the members. And I’m, and I’m sitting back and I’m, I’m watching to my right where the prosecution table is and they’re like, like going back and forth <laugh> and like, like bickering among the two prosecutors. And do you have it? No, no, I don’t. Do you? Do you have it? Do you have it? And I’m like, are you kidding me? Like sometimes I’ll bail out a prosecutor and I started to sort of like go hand them what they needed. ’cause I also don’t believe in like just being ugly for the sake of being ugly, right?

And so then it looks like one of, he’s like, oh, you do it. You do it. Okay. And so the one <laugh> and marches into the wall of the courtroom, which is like where the podium is, where we’re about to do voir dire and all that. And he says, please raise your right hand. And then he says, do you swear or affirm the evidence you shall give in the case now? And hearing will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help you God. That’s the oath for witnesses. That’s the oath for witnesses. And so <laugh>, these two, and I’m over there and I’m like, and the two very senior colonels who have sat on multiple courts martial, like, what? Turn to the other one. And he goes, Hey Herman, are you testifying today? And he’s like, no, Bob wasn’t planning to, how about you?

I’m like, dying. I am. I don’t, but it’s like a solemn thing. Like this is a court martial and I don’t wanna be seen as like being mean to these prosecutors. And so it’s all, I’m just like, mm-hmm. You know, I’m trying to like maintain my composure. And the judge like cuts them off and says, trial counsel sit down. And then he raised them the write oath. And maybe that doesn’t seem as funny to all of you, but oh my gosh, it sure was funny to me and I needed to laugh today.

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