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Instructions on Findings. RCM 920

Instructions on Findings. RCM 920

Instructions on Findings. RCM 920

  1. bestmilitarydefenseucmjdefenselawyer33United States v. Hardy , 46 M.J. 67 (1997). MJ cannot direct panel to accept findings of fact, or to return verdict of guilty. In non-capital case, panel returns only general verdict. In answering panel question regarding required finding, MJ refused trial counsel request to instruct that proof beyond reasonable doubt as to all elements meant panel must find accused guilty.
  2. United States v. Gibson , 58 M.J. 1 (2003). MJ erred by failing to give defense requested accomplice instruction. Three prong test to determine if failure to give requested instruction is reversible error: (1) was requested instruction accurate; (2) was requested instruction substantially covered by the instructions given; and (3) if not substantially covered, was the instruction on such a vital point that it (failure to give) deprived the accused of a defense or seriously impaired its effective presentation. If one through three are met, the burden of persuasion shifts to the Government to show that the error was harmless, that is, failure to give the instruction did not have a “substantial influence on the findings.” If it had a substantial influence or the court is left in “grave doubt” as to the validity of the findings, reversible error has occurred.
  3. United States v. Hibbard , 58 M.J. 71 (2003). MJ did not err by failing to give mistake of fact instruction in rape case where defense theory throughout trial, to include cross examination of victim, was that no intercourse occurred.
  4. United States v. Lewis, 65 M.J. 85 (2007). MJ erred by giving an incompleteinstruction regarding self-defense by failing to instruct the members that a mutual combatant could regain the right to self-defense when the conflict is escalated or, is unable to withdraw in good faith. “When the instructional error raises constitutional implications, the error is tested for prejudice using a “harmless beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.” US v Lewis, 65 M.J. 85, __ (2007) citing United States v. Wolford , 62 M.J. 418, 420 (2006)