We are asking that Congress ensure that the military give soldiers the same constitutional rights you would have in a civilian court of law. We want professional investigators, not Commanders, investigating felony crimes. We want prosecutors, not military Commanders to make the decision whether we have the evidence to go to court. We want soldiers accused of these crimes to have their due process rights protected, not their careers ended with a misconduct charge because the Commander can do what they please with very little oversight. In our efforts to secure due process rights, we will also be preventing crime if we are able to move forward with solid cases that help secure a conviction. If you were the soldier or victim, would you want one man deciding your fate or a jury of your peers?
Those of us who reported crimes wanted our day in court to stop these perpetrators from harming others. That is not a guaranteed right when the Commander is the convening authority. As a victim, I would much rather have a professional investigation by trained violent crimes experts and a prosecutor tell me there isn’t enough evidence to move forward with a case. And because I reported, they would have my report on file in the event someone else was harmed by the same person. Then maybe we would have a case. The original reports get lost with a Commander who can choose to do nothing with the information, let alone enter it in the FBI national crime database. Giving the accused due process rights helps us prevent a Commander from cutting them loose for misconduct should they feel that via a preponderance of the evidence the person is guilty. This does nothing to stop this person from harming civilians in our communities.
I want so much more for our troops and our country then the MJIA but it is our best shot at some sort of due process and crime prevention efforts given the current situation. If I had my way, everyone would be reporting to the civilian authorities so that all of the crime reporting data was in one place and we could track the behavior of individuals in an effort to stop them before they harm multiple people. In the meantime, I beg of you to please support the MJIA and the constitutional rights of our soldiers in the military. By professionalizing the reporting, investigation, and prosecution of these cases, we have a way better chance at catching the perpetrators and convicting them. Victims do not feel safe reporting to their Commanders for a reason. The retaliation is real. If they are not reporting, we will continue to see violent crime issues escalate in the military. Please help us not only provide due process rights for the accused but also due process rights to the accuser, who deserves a day in court for the crimes perpetrated against them. Those of us who reported did so to prevent the crimes from happening to others.
Jennifer Norris, USAF Retired