A Good Soldier Defense is a well recognized defense under the Rules of Court Martial, the Military Rules of Evidence and military case law.United States v. Wilson, 28 M.J. 48 (C.M.A. 1989). This defense allows the accused Servicemember to show honorable service, many military accomplishments, and that the charged misconduct is incompatible with the overall excellent military service. It must be carefully applied because almost all good Servicemembers have had some form of misconduct before.
Military Rule of Evidence 405 allows the defense to prove a Good Soldier Defense by showing that the accused Servicemember has a reputation for excellent military service. This defense can be used during the trial and in sentencing. Thus, without going into specific facts, the defense may introduce a number of witnesses to show that this Servicemember is one of the best Servicemembers they have ever known. Their testimony will tell panel members that the accused Servicemember is not likely to have committed the misconduct. If the prosecution desires to introduce witnesses showing that the accused Servicemember is not such a great Soldier, the defense must make sure that the prosecution witnesses have sufficient foundation to testify about their opinion of the accused’s character or his reputation. If they don’t, they cannot give their opinion.
The prosecution may try to undermine the testimony of defense witnesses by guilt assuming hypotheticals. The prosecution may try to show the accused Servicemember is not a good Soldier because she or he is charged with a particular charge. However, this is highly objectionable and any such objection from the defense would be sustained.
The ‘Good Soldier Defense’ is a powerful tool for each accused Servicemember facing court-martial. It must be carefully utilized and strategically incorporated with the Military Rules of Evidence and the Rules of Court Martial. Without proper preparation, the prosecution may try to defeat this defense. If the prosecution succeeds, the accused Servicemember will most likely not only be guilty, but also appear to be a lousy Servicemember.
When planning your case strategy, use the Good Soldier Defense wisely. Review the Military Rules of Evidence and the Rules of Court Martial to anticipate objections to the prosecution’s rebuttal. The Good Soldier Defense is not only about showing excellent military service of the accused Servicemember, but also about limiting what the prosecution seeks to introduce. If you are looking to learn more about aGood Soldier Defense, contact a military attorney Camp Pendleton offers. This is not legal advice. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For specific questions, please contact an attorney.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at The Federal Practice Group for their insight into military criminal defense and good soldier defense.