Starting with this issue of the Northwest Guardian, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs office will publish the names and units of Soldiers found guilty at courts-martial on a monthly basis. Although the names have always been a matter of public record, legal and public affairs officials at JBLM hope a monthly roll up of the names of those found guilty will be helpful in trying to prevent future law breaking.
“There are two major factors behind publishing the courts-martial: general deterrence and transparency,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Clark, I Corps chief of military justice. “We will be releasing them for both I Corps and the 7th Infantry Division.”
Courts-martial run the gamut of potential crimes. Whether that be larceny, sexual assault, battery or anything else, they will be disclosed.
“Over the years, we’ve only occasionally printed results of courts-martial, and then only using the ranks and units of the Soldiers in the Northwest Guardian,” said Joseph Piek, chief of public affairs at JBLM. “Printing courts-martial results on a consistent, monthly basis in the base newspaper and in our online publication with names, ranks and units of those convicted, will be a collaborative effort with our JBLM legal teams.
“If it helps deter even one service member and causes them to take pause from committing a crime, then we’re supportive of this effort.”
It is the hope of officials that spotlighting law-breaking Soldiers will be a natural deterrence to others. The monthly roll-up of court proceedings will also include the crimes that guilty parties committed as well as the length of the sentences.
“Those who see the results and see the punishment should be deterred from committing crimes,” Clark said. “If individuals are seeing that people are being punished for these kinds of things and the severity of the punishment, we hope to deter them from the crimes in the first place.”
Secondly, releasing the names will show the public that Soldiers committing crimes are being held accountable. It’s an appeal to transparency to make sure people understand how the military justice system is handling crimes, Clark said.
“We want to show the public that these crimes are being investigated, brought to court-martial and that the perpetrators of the crime are being punished and what that punishment is,” Clark said. “This information has always been publicly available, but we want to make it easier for people to see that the system is working.”
Soldiers who are acquitted through the court-martial process will not have their names published for privacy reasons.
“You are going to get your day in court and be able to force the government to have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the crime you’re accused of,” Clark said.
Like civilian court proceedings, most of the information around courts martial is public record.
For the December and January courts-martial, visit nwguardian.com/2017/02/09/26741/i-corps-courts-martial.html.