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.
'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 a
Good Soldier Defense, contact military law attorneys at The Federal Practice Group. This is
not legal advice. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
For specific questions, please contact an attorney.