30 January 2010

Peace of Mind - Legal Case Review

Are you concerned whether everything that can be done is being done in your case? If so, check out my Peace of Mind - Legal Case Review blog to the right. For a small investment, you can get a detailed review of your case and know that the decisions you are making now are the right ones.

24 January 2010

Fort Lewis Soldier Guilty in Girl's Death

A military judge found a Fort Lewis soldier guilty Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of his 16-year-old girlfriend. PVT Timothy Bennitt, 20, was sentenced to almost six years in military confinement, a reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge from the military. For more details on this story click here.

21 January 2010

Residual Hearsay


1. Rule 807: A statement not specifically covered by Rule 803 or 804 but having equivalent circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness, is not excluded by the hearsay rule, if the court determines that (A) the statement is offered as evidence of a material fact; (B) the statement is more probative on the point for which it is offered than any other evidence which the proponent can procure through reasonable efforts; and (C) the general purposes of these rules and the interests of justice will best be served by admission of the statement into evidence. However, a statement may not be admitted under this exception unless the proponent of it makes known to the adverse party sufficiently in advance of the trial or hearing to provide the adverse party with a fair opportunity to prepare to meet it, the intention to offer the statement and the particulars of it, including the name and address of the declarant.

2. Counsel’s Objective. To introduce into evidence a hearsay statement regarding a material fact when such statement does not fall within a firmly rooted exception, but is more probative than any other reasonably obtainable evidence, and when admission of the statement is in the best interests of justice.

3. Key points.

a. Offer hearsay under as many enumerated theories as possible. Most hearsay arguably can be pegged to one of the traditional exceptions, such as excited utterance or medical diagnosis or treatment. However, there will be instances when for some technical reason (i.e., the declarant did not appear excited or the declarant did not make the statement for the purposes of treatment or diagnosis) that the statement will not meet the criteria of one of the standard exceptions. Seek the statement’s admission first under one of the traditional exceptions, but also give notice under Rule 807 as a fallback.
b. Satisfy the requirements for admission spelled out in the rules themselves:
(1) Provide notice. The Rule requires giving the opposing side notice of your intention to introduce the statement.

(2) Establish materiality. It is generally easy to establish that the statement’s admission is critical to the determination of an issue central to the case. There is no special definition of “material”.

(3) Establish that the statement is more probative than any other available evidence. It is trickier to show that the statement is more probative than any other procurable evidence when the witness is available. While an unavailable declarant helps a counsel avoid the counterintuitive argument that a pretrial out-of-court statement is more probative than in-court testimony, the declarant’s unavailability is no guarantee for admission of the statement. Counsel should make the record clear as to the ultimately unsuccessful effort made to get more probative evidence and why the statement in issue is more probative than other available evidence. Among the possible reasons establishing greater probativeness are the following:
(a) the statement is direct evidence and is more probative than any available circumstantial or expert testimony on the same point;
(b) the statement is more detailed or specific than any other available procurable evidence;
(c) the statement can resolve a dispute concerning a material fact at issue.

(4) Articulate how admission of the statement serves the interests of justice. Anticipate you opponent’s argument that the residual exception is to be used sparingly.
c. Satisfy the constitutional requirements for admission: Every accused enjoys the right to confront witnesses against him based upon the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. The military judge will be required to make findings fulfilling the requirements of Rule 807 and regarding the trustworthiness of the statements in accordance with Idaho v. Wright, 497 U.S. 805 (1990). Essentially, hearsay is admissible when the witness is unavailable and the hearsay either falls within a firmly rooted hearsay exception or has particularized guarantees of trustworthiness. However, you must be cognizant of any Crawford problem with the hearsay statement. Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). The Crawford decision requires a determination regarding whether out-of-court statements are “testimonial” or “nontestimonial” in nature. A statement is “testimonial” if it was made under circumstances which would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that the statement would be available for use at a later trial. In light of Crawford, “testimonial” hearsay is inadmissible at trial unless the declarant is unavailable and the defense was afforded a prior opportunity to cross-examine the declarant.
(a) A sworn, voluntary, detailed statement alone will not automatically guarantee admission. A skeptical interviewer may be a trial counsel’s best friend since it will be more difficult for the defense to argue that the declarant was influenced by the questions. While trial counsel ordinarily accept police statements as the gospel truth, the courts have been less trusting. The more the statement is in the witness’s unedited thoughts, the better chance of qualifying as residual hearsay. An interviewer must be willing to risk an inconvenient (to the Government) answer in the interests of making it clear that she did nothing more than provide the opportunity for the witness to tell the story. To the extent that the statement appears more narrative (hence arguably less directed) and reflects an internal consistency, the court is more likely to find it reliable. What you read as a rambling nightmare of a statement actually may help your case.
(b) Among the factors enhancing the “circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness” enunciated by the United States Supreme Court are the following:
-spontaneity and consistent repetition;
-mental state of the declarant;
-use of terminology unexpected of a child of similar age; and
-lack of motive to fabricate.
Justice O'Connor, writing for the majority, noted that this list is not exclusive. Among other factors cited in military cases are:
-the interviewer did not notify the declarant in advance of the interview;
-the interviewer continually stressed the need for the truth;
-the interviewer used open-ended, non-leading questions;
-the witness’ lack of animosity towards the accused; and
-the witness’ sticking with the same version even when an opportunity to recant without penalty presented itself.
(c) Other evidence in the case is not relevant for determining whether the statement at issue is trustworthy. Corroborating evidence cannot be used to establish indicia of reliability. Here is a checklist of factors, based on Idaho v. Wright and the military cases which have followed that decision, used to determine the reliability and trustworthiness of the statement:

Factors In Favor
consistent repetition
mental state of declarant
use of terminology unexpected of
a child of similar age [child declarant]
*lack of motive to fabricate
interviewer did not notify interviewee
in advance
interviewer continually stressed the need for truth

Factors Which Shouldn’t be Considered
medical/physical corroborating evidence
accused’s admissions (no recantation)
eyewitness corroboration
accused opportunity to commit the crime
accused’s prior uncharged misconduct

Army Doctors Could Face Court-Martial

The Army has told some of the psychiatrists who supervised Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan that it is investigating them. The results of the investigation could mean these doctors might face punishments, from letters of reprimand to court-martial. The Army said it's going to decide whether the doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center "failed to take appropriate action" against Hasan and were "derelict" in their duties. Evidence shows that a lot of doctors had worried about Hasan — some for years.

20 January 2010

Demonstrative Evidence at Trial


1. UCMJ or Manual References. None directly address demonstrative evidence. General provisions regarding authentication, relevance and prejudice apply to demonstrative evidence.

2. Counsel’s Objective. To illustrate, amplify, punctuate, and explain the direct evidence in the case. This is accomplished through physical items created for use in trial -- charts, graphs, models, etc. -- as well as through adaptation of the real evidence -- as in blow-ups of handwriting exemplars.

a. Demonstrative evidence “illustrates or clarifies the testimony of a witness, such as by the use of models or not-to-scale diagrams. Substantive or real evidence, however, is introduced to prove or disprove a fact in issue, e.g., a firearm, the photograph of a footprint, or a photograph of the latent fingerprint vis-a-vis the accused’s fingerprint.” United States v. Heatherly, 21 M.J. 113, 115 n.2 (C.M.A. 1985) (emphasis added).

b. People retain more information the more their senses are engaged. Demonstrative evidence involves the members in the evidence because it engages more than their ears. Nearly every case can use demonstrative evidence on either the merits or sentencing. Even an ordinary drug case can be punctuated by, e.g., a film of a unit performing routine field duties (raising the question of how a soldier using drugs could perform such work effectively or reliably).

3. Key Points.

a. Do's.

(1) Lay a foundation that ties the demonstrative evidence to other evidence in the case. You only need to establish that the items are sufficiently explanatory or illustrative of relative testimony and that it is of potential help to the trier of fact.
(2) Work closely with your experts in developing demonstrative evidence. Many experts are creative people with a teacher’s sense of how to present complicated information in a simple and intelligible way. Both you and the expert should think of ways to supplement testimony with something tangible. This can be as simple as a fingerprint examiner using an enlargement of known and unknown prints to point out the whorls and peaks of a print, or a forensic pathologist using a skeleton to show in three dimensions how and where the victim was injured.
(3) Have the witness testify from memory first, followed by reference to the demonstrative evidence. This provides both a legal and practical foundation for the demonstrative evidence. If the witness first testifies about the location of the crime or the scientific analysis he performed, the members already will be oriented. After the witness describes the scene or the tests, he can then approach the demonstrative evidence and simply answer “yes” to the trial counsel's query “Is Prosecution Exhibit 10 for Identification a fair and accurate representation of?”
(4) Be prepared to answer an opposing counsel’s objection under Military Rule of Evidence (Rule) 403. Opposing counsel will assert that the proffered evidence is more prejudicial than probative. You can answer such an objection by: (a) making as specific a tie as possible to the real and testimonial evidence of your case (how this evidence can best illustrate the dry, theoretical or one dimensional evidence of record), (b) calling the witnesses who will use the demonstrative evidence in support of your offer of proof, and (c) arguing that Rule 403 is designed to encourage maximum information to the panel. The test favors admission of evidence unless its prejudicial effect substantially outweighs its probative value.
(5) Show the evidence to your opposition before trial. Nothing is gained from playing “hide-the-ball” with such evidence. It is more important that you admit the evidence than that you surprise opposing counsel. Your chances for admissibility -- and forcing your opposition to respond practically and psychologically to your evidence -- are enhanced by being able to state on the record that the evidence has been previously shown to opposing counsel. In addition, notify the judge before trial any time you are using novel evidence. An out-of-court session under Rule for Courts-Martial (RCM) 802 might be appropriate in certain circumstances.
(6) Seek admission of the evidence in a pretrial Article 39(a) session. This enables you to use the evidence, when appropriate, in your opening statement. More importantly, it helps you plan your case and you can assure witnesses that they will be able to use and refer to the evidence during their testimony.
(7) Talk to the record. If the witness insists on saying “over here” and “he came out of there,” interrupt the witness to say that “the witness pointed to the intersection of 4th and Macomb” or “the witness is referring to the room labeled ‘kitchen’.” Before trial brief your witnesses on the importance of such clarity. Be prepared to step in if the witness fails to talk to the record. An easier method is done by simply giving clear directions to your witness, and when they comply with the directions, it will be evident from the record. For example, you can tell a witness, “Using the red marker, write the letter ‘A’ on the diagram where you first saw the alleged victim.” If you give clear directions, it is unnecessary to say things such as, “Let the record reflect that the witness is drawing a red ‘A’ on the diagram about 3 inches from the left side and 4 inches down from the top.” Failure to do so will leave you with a piece of demonstrative evidence that carries no weight when appellate courts cannot decipher the record.
(8) Consider the use of facsimile or “like” evidence when the original is unavailable. If the original weapon cannot be found but a witness testifies that the wounds are consistent with a jagged 5” blade or a 2” diameter lead pipe, find an item like that described and introduce it as facsimile evidence. It is helpful to the fact finder in envisioning the crime and gives you something to hand to the witness and to the panel.
(9) Consider using medical illustrations in lieu of or to supplement photographs. Some military medical centers have medical illustrators who can assemble a picture (or series of pictures, sometimes using acetate overlays) of victims of crimes. Such illustrations dramatically portray the victim’s “constellation of injuries” on one piece of evidence, instead of a series of photographs and, perhaps, autopsy sketches. They also help avoid objections for gruesomeness of photographs.
(10) Ensure the exhibit can be reproduced for the record. Ask the judge on the record for permission to substitute copies or photographs of bulky or unwieldy evidence for the record. Ensure that the photographs include as many angles as necessary and include the judge’s markings and, when relevant, a ruler or color chart laid next to the evidence. See RCM 1103(b)(2)(D)(v).
(11) Discover the resources in your local community. Look first on your installation. The Training Aids Support Center (TASC) usually has a photo lab and a small army of photographers and illustrators. Learn what they can do. Engineering units or employees of the Directorate of Engineering and Housing may draw maps and diagrams or build scale models. Contact the post hospital, which may have skeletons and other medical models. Also use local colleges, universities and hospitals, all of which may have resources that may help you.
(12) Think through all of your practical needs. Scope out the courtroom so you know where to place screens, easels and cameras. Warn and accommodate the court reporter in advance. Have extra light bulbs, marking pens, butcher paper and extension cords so that you are not left fumbling during the trial. Ensure that the evidence is visible to the members, the military judge and opposing counsel.

b. Don'ts.

(1) Don't use in-court demonstrations without first giving your plan a lot of thought. Those demonstrations that rely on the acting out of some physical activity (e.g., falling, or positioning the key players in an assault) run a high risk of being insufficiently probative because of the difficulty of incorporating all of the variables. Those that show the obvious may be kept out simply as “unhelpful.” Most of all, you run a great risk of forfeiting the members’ attention and good will by portraying an event or activity ineffectively.
(2) Don’t fail to set forth a strong, specific showing of relevance when suggesting in-court demonstrations of forensic tests. A CID agent’s in-court demonstration of a marijuana field test “was of great inflammatory potential and of little relevance” to a prosecution for sale of marijuana. United States v. Pejcha , 7 M.J. 455, 456 (C.M.A. 1979).
(3) Don’t bank on using novel or unusual demonstrative evidence until it is admitted. Because demonstrative evidence is not “real” evidence, trial judges have broad discretion in determining whether and under what conditions to admit it. Therefore, do not risk committing yourself to a certain piece of evidence during an opening statement that you are later unable to present. Conversely, do not tie your witnesses so rigidly to the anticipated demonstrative evidence that they find themselves unable to testify effectively when that evidence is not admitted or is altered. This is another reason to seek admission of evidence before trial.
(4) Don’t forget that diagrams can be improperly “leading.” Don’t put too many labels on your diagrams and maps. When placement of individuals or evidence is central to a diagram, allow the witness to write in that information while testifying. If a witness refers to a map that already suggests some of the relevant testimony, you may be faced with an objection that the diagram leads the witness, making the diagram inadmissible.
(5) Don’t forget to protect your evidence. Once your witness has marked the map or diagram, move it into evidence. If not admitted, your opposing counsel may be able to in cross-examination or otherwise, suggest other markings that neutralize the exhibit or leave it unhelpful to the panel, if not unintelligible. In the alternative, provide an acetate overlay on which your opposition can make its markings without disturbing your evidence.

4. Practice Sample--Using a diagram:

TC: Where were you when the accused called to you?
A: About 20 feet from the intersection of 4th and Macomb, here on the installation.
TC: When did he catch up to you?
A: After I had gone another 10 feet or so.
TC: What direction were you walking?
A: East on Macomb toward my billets.
TC: I’m now showing you Prosecution Exhibit 10 for identification. What is that?
A: It’s a diagram of the area where I was assaulted.
TC: Is it a fair and accurate representation of that area as it appeared on the day of the crime?
A: Yes, it is.
TC: I’m handing you a marker and ask you to approach the diagram and place an “A” where the accused first yelled to you. [The witness did as directed.]
TC: Now, please place a “B” where the accused assaulted you. [The witness did as instructed.]

Fort Lewis Soldier Faces Court-Martial

PVT Timothy Bennitt's Article 32 hearing began yesterday. The Article 32 is looking into whether he is responsible for the overdose death of his teenage girlfriend.
The lead Army investigator told the Article 32 officer that Bennitt admitted to obtaining drugs, but denied personally giving his 16-year-old girlfriend the prescription drugs that eventually led to her death. For more details on this story go to this link: Bennitt Story.

19 January 2010

Client Intake Questionnaire

Thank you for your interest in consulting with our office on your case. To schedule a consultation, please complete the following steps:

1) Call or e-mail our office to schedule a mutually convenient time for a phone consultation.

2) Download and complete our Client Intake Questionnaire. After completing this questionnaire, please either e-mail or fax the document to our office. This will allow us to quickly assess the needs of your case.

3) Gather all of your case documents. Please have these documents with you for the consultation meeting. If possible, e-mail or fax the documents to our office in advance of your scheduled phone consultation.

If you have any questions about this process or retaining Mr. Coombs to handle your case, feel free to contact our office at (401) 744-3007.

18 January 2010

Peace of Mind - Legal Case Review

Legal Case Review is a service designed to specifically meet your legal needs without unnecessary and extensive cost to you. The program is designed to give you the benefit of a civilian counsel's advice in order to make decisions about your future.

Mr. Coombs' expertise is honest and open. He will not provide you with a false or misleading opinion in order to appease you or to convince you to retain him. Mr. Coombs will listen completely to all aspects of your case and will employ his years of military experience to present you with a concise evaluation of your case in a timely and cost effective manner.

The broad base of knowledge and judgment Mr. Coombs possesses will affirm your desire for an expert to analyze large amounts of information in your case and present it to you in a condensed and easily understandable format. With special attention to details and knowledge of Army's rules and regulations, he will do his best to develop a winning strategy for you.

Cases are often won or lost, by the willingness and diligence of an attorney to uncover significant details. If you hire Mr. Coombs to review your case, you will be able to rest assured that no stone was left unturned. You will be advised of the merits of your case to assist you in determining how to proceed. This pertains to fighting Article 15s, Letters of Reprimand, Chapter Eliminations, Administrative Reduction Boards, Show Cause Boards, Chapter Elimination Boards, and trial by Court-Martial. A small investment in your defense now, will give you the confidence to know that the decisions you make in the future will be the right ones.

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Mr. Coombs will discuss the facts of your case with you, then advise you if it is worthwhile for you to invest additional resources for a detailed legal review of your case.

Legal Records Review Process
Mr. Coombs will read, analyze and summarize all of the records available. This includes, but is not limited to: charges against you, sworn statements, CID/MP investigative records, laboratory tests and reports, investigative notes, etc. You will be provided a Trial Memorandum/Case Summary which organizes your case into a simple format that will direct your attention to the strengths and weaknesses of your case in order for you to determine your best approach. An honest opinion of your chances for a positive outcome will also be included.

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With vast experience, Mr. Coombs stands ready to assist you in your defense. If you decide to retain his services after receiving his legal review of your case, the fee you paid for the legal review will be applied towards his retainer. In other words, you will not lose anything if you decide to retain him to defend you.

If you don't decide to retain Mr. Coombs, you can have peace of mind knowing that your military counsel now has the benefit of Mr. Coombs' review of your case. This information will provide your defense counsel with up to date information on the legal defenses available to you and with an assessment of your case that will help your military counsel develop a strong presentation of your case.

Fee Schedule

Appeal: $3,000 (Includes Follow-up Telephone Consultations and Detailed Review of the Possible Appellate Issues in your case)

General Court-Martial: $3,000 (Includes Follow-up Telephone Consultations and Detailed Review of your case)

Bad Conduct Discharge Court-Martial: $2,000 (Includes Follow-up Telephone Consultations and Detailed Review of your case)

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Pretrial Advice Prior to Charges: $1,000 to $2,000 - depending upon the scope of the investigation and nature of the allegations against you. Many times you can avoid the pain of going through a court-martial with aggressive representation prior to charges being preferred. The fee includes a detailed review of your potential charges, walking you through the system, and efforts to influence both the investigation, command and the staff judge advocate to obtain the very best possible outcome for you.

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15 January 2010

Pentagon Report on Fort Hood Shootings

The Pentagon has released its report on the Fort Hood shooting. The full report is available at this link: Report. Once you reach the link, simply click on the "released at noon by the Pentagon" link in the third paragraph of the story.
It appears that several officers may be held accountable for the failure to identify MAJ Nidal Hasan as a threat. According to the Defense Secretary Mr. Robert Gates, "it is clear that, as a department, we have not done enough to adapt to the evolving domestic internal security threat to American troops and military facilities that has emerged over the past decade."

14 January 2010

United States v. Ediger

United States v. Ediger, 68 M.J. 243 (2010) [5-0 decision with J. Erdmann writing the opinion.]

a) PROCEDURAL BASIS: At a contested general court-martial, Private First Class Jerry J. Ediger was convicted of one specification of rape of a person under the age of sixteen and two specifications of making a false official statement. Prior to trial the Government dismissed one specification of taking indecent liberties with a female under the age of sixteen. Ediger was sentenced to a dishonorable discharge and confinement for fifteen years. The convening authority reduced the confinement to fourteen years and eleven months but otherwise approved the sentence. The United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the findings and sentence.

b) FACTS: The charges against Ediger arose out of allegations made by Ediger’s former stepdaughter, MA. MA testified that after a family trip to Walmart, Ediger told her that she had embarrassed him and he wanted to embarrass her in the same way. Ediger told MA to go to her
parents’ bedroom and ordered her to pull down her pants and get on the bed. When MA refused, Ediger pulled down her pants and told her to get on the bed on all fours facing away from him. Ediger proceeded to sit in a chair behind MA with a pornographic magazine and masturbate. MA testified that this event took place in 1999. Shortly after this incident MA left her mother’s home and moved in with her grandparents. In 2001, MA moved back in with her mother and Ediger and she testified that it was during this time period that Ediger raped her. After the rape MA again left to live with her grandparents. MA returned in 2005 when her mother was preparing for major surgery. At that time MA decided to tell her mother about Ediger’s abuse, which resulted in a criminal investigation and the filing of the instant charges against Ediger. The Government sought to introduce evidence of prior child molestation by Ediger pursuant to M.R.E. 414 in the form of testimony from TG. Ediger filed a motion to suppress TG’s testimony. For purposes of the motion, the parties stipulated that TG would testify as follows: (1) Ediger lived with TG and her mother when TG was between eight and eleven years old; (2) Ediger sexually abused her in a variety of ways including fondling her and forcing her to perform oral sex on him; (3) in one instance, Ediger punished TG by telling her to take off her pants and underwear and pose on her hands and knees on her bed while he spanked her, masturbated and licked her pubic area; (4) on another occasion, TG inadvertently walked in on Ediger and her mother engaged in a sex act and Ediger said to her, “you either have to leave, or you have to be a part of this,” or words to that effect; and (5) TG reported Ediger’s conduct to the police but recanted at the urging of her mother. Over the defense objection, the Military Judge admitted the testimony of TG as proper evidence under M.R.E. 414.

c) ISSUE: Whether the military judge erred in admitting the testimony of TG pursuant to M.R.E. 413 and M.R.E. 414?

d) DECISION AND RATIONALE: No. The CAAF recounts the general requirements for admission of evidence under M.R.E. 414. Admission of evidence under M.R.E. 414 requires a two-step analysis. First, the military judge must make three threshold findings: (1) whether the
accused is charged with an act of child molestation as defined by M.R.E. 414(a); (2) whether the proffered evidence is evidence of his commission of another offense of child molestation as
defined by the rule; and (3) whether the evidence is relevant under M.R.E. 401 and M.R.E. 402. United States v. Bare, 65 M.J. 35, 36 (C.A.A.F. 2007). Once the three threshold factors are met, the military judge must then apply a balancing test under M.R.E. 403. Id.

This case is not important for the fact that is repeats the above requirement. Instead, it is important because it stands for the proposition that once evidence is admitted under M.R.E. 414, it “may be considered for any matter to which it is relevant.” As noted above, the Government dismissed one specification of indecent liberties against the appellant. The defense argued that this resulted in TG's testimony no longer being relevant. The argument, however, did not prevail. The CAAF was not persuaded that the military judge should be required to clearly focus the members on what charges they could and could not use the M.R.E. 414 evidence. Instead, the CAAF held that members can consider properly admitted 414 evidence for any charge that it is relevant. The holding reinforces the plain meaning of the language in M.R.E. 414 -“In a court-martial in which the accused is charged with an offense of child molestation, evidence of the accused’s commission of one or more offenses of child molestation is admissible and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant.”

13 January 2010

Fort Hood Report to Be Released Tomorrow

The Pentagon inquiry into the Fort Hood shooting will be released tomorrow according to the Washington Post. An interesting observation from the report is that officer performance evaluations need to be more forthright and honest in order to identify those who may pose a risk to others. The report was critical of the fact that MAJ Nidal M. Hasan continued to advance in the army despite poor performance and erratic behavior due to inflated formal evaluations that suggested he was a capable and competent officer.

NO KICK for Drug Distribution

I am happy to report that a young soldier, who made a terrible decision in a moment of weakness, was given a second chance yesterday to remain in the Army. Faced with a wrongful distribution of a controlled substance charge, it didn't look very good for my client. However, through a creative sentencing case and a lot of hard work, I was able to convince a military judge to not give my client a Bad-Conduct Discharge.

07 January 2010

Wills and Powers of Attorney Forms

Recently, I saw a commercial advertising services to soldiers. The ad targeted those who were deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan. The main message of the commercial was that soldiers should protect their family by purchasing a will and power of attorney packet from the company. After the sales pitch, a woman representing herself as a widow stated "I am so happy my husband thought of me and our children before he left." The advertisement did not state how much you would have to pay for the packet, but I'm sure it was not free.

If you are considering using this service or some other prepay forms service, you should know that your local Staff Judge Advocate Office will provide wills and powers of attorney for free. Unless you have a substantial estate or you are trying to do a complicated trust, the attorneys at your local installation will be happy to help you complete a will or give a general or special power of attorney to a family member.