In December, the 204th JAOBC took a course of instruction in criminal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. From substantive law to pretrial procedures, to guilty pleas, to contested courts-martial, to trial practice, to previews of the new UCMJ that will take effect in 2019, the class explored the Manual for Courts Martial through the lens of the well-worn case of United States v. Archie.
Using the standard Army training method of “crawl, walk, run,” the criminal law instructors took the 204th through a week of instruction composed almost entirely of lectures, a week of some lectures followed by practical exercises, and a week of practical exercises and trials punctuated with large group instruction.
During instruction on substantive criminal law an instructor roped several students into a conspiracy to demonstrate theories of liability. Another instructor had students prefer and refer charges as well as conduct an arraignment and a guilty plea.
In small groups, students conducted direct and cross examination. Students also worked through refreshing witness recollection, impeachment and laying foundations for introduction of evidence.
Students also argued motions to determine the scope of evidence that would be introduced, gave opening statements and closing arguments and made arguments for sentencing. These exercises helped students get time on their feet doing a few of the tasks expected of trial counsel and defense counsel.
Thursday and Friday of the last week of criminal law were reserved for the case of United States v. Archie. Every student played either a defense counsel or a trial counsel and a crime victim or the accused in the case (except for one student who had the unenviable task of playing both the victim and assailant on the stand). The exercise involved a contested judge alone trial on the merits and allowed students to conduct the entire trial from start to finish, albeit in a somewhat abbreviated form.
Instructors played the role of judge in the trials and provided extensive feedback to the students playing counsel. It is also noteworthy that the class consists of people who just completed law school within the past few years and people who have been practicing for over a decade. Some of these disparities were on full display during the trials; however, with everyone new to the specific dynamics of a court-martial it was a valuable exercise for all but the most experienced of practitioners.