Have Pre-Court Martial Military Hearings on Rape Got Out of Hand?


For roughly 30 hours, defense lawyers for three former U.S. Naval Academy football players grilled a female midshipman about her sexual habits. The New York Times says the aggressive tactics this month and last are part of a case that has raised alarms about “Article 32” proceedings, which help determine whether cases are sent to courts-martial. Article 32 hearings permit questions not allowed in civilian courts and can include cross-examinations so intense that legal experts say they frighten victims from coming forward.

“These have become their own trials,” said Jonathan Lurie, a professor emeritus of legal history at Rutgers University and the author of two books on military justice. “If this is what Article 32 has come to be, then it is time to either get rid of it or put real restrictions on the conduct during them.” The case illuminates what critics say is wrong with trying sexual assault cases in the military justice system. U. S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants to take the prosecution of sexual assault cases outside a victim's chain of command, with a goal of increasing the number of people who report crimes without fear of retaliation.

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