What You Need to Know About Witnesses at an Army Board of Inquiry

Click to Call 253-317-8494

In the world of Army Boards of Inquiry, the spotlight often falls on witness accounts of what did or did not happen.

The men and women chosen to sit as voting members in these hearings decide if an Officer has committed a violation of policy or other misconduct. While it might seem straightforward, the role of witnesses, whether they are called at all, and if they are called how they’re treated, calls into question how fair the process really is. Let’s dive into the details and peel back the layers that exist behind the rules.

Witness Examination: More Than Meets the Eye

Witnesses are supposed to help the board figure out the truth by sharing what they know. What they explain should demonstrate the investigation process for what is a board of inquiry. But, when board members start asking questions, it’s not always a level playing field. Sometimes, it feels like the questions are picked to paint a picture that the board already has in mind, not necessarily what’s true.

Power Plays a Role

Imagine being a junior enlisted Soldier and having to talk in front of higher-ups. It’s intimidating, right? That’s the reality for many witnesses. This kind of pressure can make them say things in a way that they think the board wants to hear, not necessarily what they truly believe or know.

Choosing Witnesses Isn’t Always Fair

The board’s approach in deciding who speaks highlights the difference between a show cause board and board of inquiry, showing that not all voices are deemed equal. The board’s recorder can offer its list of suggested witnesses, and so does the counsel defending the member, known as respondent’s counsel. This power means the board can pick people who support what they already think, leaving out voices that might tell a different story. It’s like choosing players for a team but only picking the ones who agree with you.

How Much Do Testimonies Weigh?

After everyone talks, the board decides what and who to believe. But how they make these decisions isn’t always clear. Without knowing the rules of the game, it’s hard to tell if they’re weighing everyone’s words equally or just listening to the ones they like.

Cross-Examination: A Missed Opportunity?

Cross-examination is supposed to help find the truth by asking more questions. We call this the crucible of cross-examination. But, if the board limits these questions by sustaining objections to questions, it can feel like they’re only interested in hearing one side of the story. It can feel like you are watching a debate where one side gets more time than the other.

The Problem with Missing Witnesses

The rules are not completely transparent about what constitutes an available witness. When a key witness refuses to show up, it echoes the challenges discussed in what is a show cause board, where the absence of crucial testimonies can skew the outcome. If the members decide they do not need to hear from the person, their prior written statements can be used. This means their assertions cannot be directly confronted because they are not there to answer questions. This means it’s hard to get the full picture. It can feel like trying to solve a puzzle with missing pieces.

The Influence of the Chain of Command

Do not ever forget about the invisible pressure from military ranks. Witnesses in administrative hearings know their careers can be affected by what they say, which might influence their testimony. Unlike testimony at courts-martial which is at least on its surface protected from retaliation, administrative hearings have no similar declared protections.

Conclusion: Fairness on the Line

While Army Boards of Inquiry aim to address misconduct, the parallels with administrative separation / boards of inquiry reveal a complex interplay of rules and discretion. From picking who speaks to weighing their words, each step can tilt the scales in one direction. It’s crucial to ask if the process is as balanced as it should be.

For these hearings to truly be fair, it’s important that all voices are heard equally, decisions are transparent, and everyone plays by the same rules. Only then can we trust that justice isn’t just a concept, but a reality in these important decisions. For the best odds at a positive outcome, it is important to choose an advocate who leverages their experience and knowledge to highlight insufficiency of proof and where witness accounts are not credible.

How To Fight Administrative Separation

On any given day in the U.S. Armed Forces, multiple servicemembers will get written notice from their unit telling them that they are getting kicked ... Read more

Court Martial Bloopers Part 2

Court martial bloopers part two. I hope you guys are liking this because I am. Okay, so this one is from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, circa around 2012.

Understanding The Consequences Of An Administrative Separation For Misconduct

Officially, the military’s method of formally prosecuting misconduct (and “kicking out” those who commit it) is through a court-martial or military trial. What many don’t ... Read more

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.