Posted: Jan 6, 2012 6:26 PM by Andy Koen
Updated: Jan 6, 2012 6:39 PM
Military court proceedings will begin next Thursday for one of three US Air Force Academy cadets facing charges of sexual assault. There will be an Article 32 hearing on Thursday for Cadet Stephan Claxton on charges of unlawful sexual contact, underage drinking and assault involving a female cadet.
On Friday, the Academy's Staff Judge Advocate Col. Paul Barzler met with members of the media to explain the military judicial system in detail. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, an Article 32 hearing acts similar to a grand jury in civilian courts to investigate specific allegations. However, a grand jury is conducted in private, while an Article 32 hearing is an open public hearing.
"The accused is present, the accused military counsel is present, the defense counsel is present. The government will call witnesses, the accused counsel will have the opportunity to cross examine those witnesses," explained Col. Barzler.
He says the process serves also as a period of discovery for the defense. At the conclusion of the hearing, Academy Superintendent Gen. Michael Gould will decide whether to bring the case to trial in the form a court martial.
One of the main differences between a court martial and a civilian trial is that court martial only requires a two-thirds majority of the jury is needed to convict as compared to a unanimous verdict in civilian court. Barzler says this system results in very few hung juries.
On Thursday, commanders at the Academy preferred charges against Claxton and two other cadets, Kyle Cressy and Robert Evenson. Article 32 hearings for Cressy and Evenson are expected but have not yet been set.