Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Appeals Court Judge Finds For Cadet Webster Smith



A Judge on the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals found that former cadet Webster Smith was denied a fair trial and that the case should be sent back to the trial court for a new trial. He found that the Case of United States vs Webster Smith should be returned to the Convening Authority for a new trial.

The Judge found so many discretionary errors in the court-martial proceedings that he had no choice but to rule that Webster Smith had been denied a fair trial.

It was a classic case of "he-said she-said". The trial came down to simply a credibility issue. The big question was who was telling the truth and who was not.

This was a quetion for the jury to decide. It was a fact question. The jury is the trier of facts. The court-martial judge went to extraordinary lengths to keep the question out of the hands of the jury. He took it upon himself to decide the issue of credibility. That is why Webster Smith was convicted.

The jury had no idea what the real issue was. They were kept in the dark. They were not given proper instructions. The judge decided who was the more credible witness. The judge abused his discretion.

The judge went beyond the authority and power delegated to him under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the Federal Rules of Evidence. Webster Smith was denied his Sixth Amendment Rights.

One does not have to read the Appeals Court decision to know that an accused at a court-martial has a right to cross-examine the witnesses against him. Anyone who has watched Perry Mason or Tom Cruise in the movie "A Few Good Men", would come away with an appreciation for the fact that the jury has the responsibility to decide what the facts are and who is not telling the truth.

When a judge does not allow the jury to do its job, he commits reversible error. When a judge confuses his duties with the duties assigned to the jury, then he has abused his discretion and that constitutes reversible error.

The prosecution was allowed to ask Webster Smith questions that were like bombshells that would cave in the sides of a Sherman Tank, but on cross-examination of the principal witness, the Defense lawyers were reduced to tip-toeing through the tulips. The uncorroborated testimony of the principal witness was a roadside bomb to Webster Smith's defense.

If the jury had only been allowed to follow the Yellow Brick Road and to resolve the credibility issue itself, then, at least, the trial of Webster Smith would have had some semblance of a fair trial. The trial judge was not taking any chances. He took matters into his own hands. He jumped onto the Scales of Justice and pulled them way down on the side of the Prosecution.

In a case where the principal witness was allowed to hide behind the military judge for protection from thorough cross-examination; and where facts and perceptions may have been dispositive of the ultimate issue, Truth can be elusive. In a case where a convincing and charming fabricator of facts can sway a jury that has not been fully informed, and where the jury has only been given some of the relevent facts, the judge left a lot of room for mischief on the part of a sneaky prosecutor. The judge left a lot of room for the imagination of the jury to run wild when he allowed the Prosecutor to introduce just enough evidence to put Webster Smith in a compromising position; but he denied the Defense lawyers an opportunity to explain the contradictions by cross-examining the principal witness. Then the judge left it to the jury to "connect the dots". This was terribly unfair to the accused, Webster Smith.

Webster Smith was reduced to "a bug under a glass jar" for inspection, and the principal witnesswas kept as snug as a bug in a rug. Eventually all of this discretionary "hokus-pokus" became so egrecious as to eliminate any possibility of a fair trial for Webster Smith. Finding the Truth became next to impossible. This case must be remanded for a new trial. To send the case back to the Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy for a new trial is the only fair way to remedy the errors that were committed in the court-martial of Webster Smith.

The Founding Fathers and the framers of the U S Constitution provided procedural safeguards for criminal defendents facing the awesome powers on the Federal Government with a bottomless pocket and a legion of attack dog prosecutors. They gave him; among other rights, the right to remain silent, the right to trial by jury, and the right to confront and to cross-examine the witnesses against him. These rights are inalienable. These rights cannot be taken away; not by the Government, and certainly not by a part-time trial judge.

One judge on the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals saw clearly how the legal system, the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, and the Military Rules of Evidence were misused to deny Webster Smith a fair trial.

It was due process without all of the process that was due.
It was military justice without fairness and very little justice.
It was a kangaroo court-martial.
It was (to quote Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) a high tech lynching.
It is a stain on the Red, White and Blue.
It is a stench in the nostrils of a just God.
It will live in infamy.

Attorneys for former Coast Guard Academy cadet Webster Smith have filed a brief and a petition for review and appeal of his court-martial with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. (Aug 2008). This is the last level of appeal before the U S Supreme Court.

3 comments:

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ichbinalj said...

Attorneys for former Coast Guard Academy cadet Webster Smith have filed a brief and a petition for review and appeal of his court-martial with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. (Aug 2008). This is the last level of appeal before the U S Supreme Court.

ichbinalj said...

Webster Smith said:
While CAAF is deciding whether or not to address the constitutional issues in my case, I remain faithful that they will hear the case and deliberate on it, objectively. I have seen God move mountains, in my life. I have prayed for many things but nothing moreso than vindication. Not because I want to win something but because I want to be something. I am a couple of things right now: a father, a husband, and the resident hyper-active geek at a Houston Law Firm. I know that I don’t write about any of this much but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t on my mind–nearly every second of every day.