Congress eyes changes in courts-martial procedures

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(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Air Force general’s decision to reverse a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case is fueling support for legislation that would prevent commanding officers from overturning rulings made by judges and juries at courts-martial proceedings.

Anu Bhagwati of the Service Women’s Action Network told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday that commanders are unable to make impartial decisions because they usually have a professional relationship with the accused and, often, with the victim too. Bhagwati is a former Marine.

Under military law, a commander who convenes a court-martial has the sole discretion to reduce or set aside guilty verdicts and sentences.

The committee’s hearing comes just days after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of the Air Force case after lawmakers expressed outrage over Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin’s decision to overturn an officer’s sexual assault conviction.

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