Military

Group Wants Impartial Military Justice System

Commanding officers can currently overrule juries and judges

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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 times, with the victim as well. She said court-martial cases should be left in the hands of "trained, professional, disinterested prosecutors."

Under military law, a commander who convenes a court-martial is known as the convening authority and has the sole discretion to reduce or set aside guilty verdicts and sentences or to reverse a jury's verdict.