During a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Senators criticized the military’s handling of sexual assault cases, and called for serious reforms of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Senators heard testimony from sexual assault survivors and advocates, and grilled military leadership on the fairness of the current system, which gives commanders the authority to dismiss jury verdicts and overturn sentences after a courts martial.
Following the hearing, Senator McCaskill announced that she will be introducing legislation to limit the power of commanders. “Giving military commanders with no legal experience the ability to completely nullify a jury’s verdict without even requiring justification is against everything that be believe about justice in this country,” said Senator McCaskill, a former prosecutor.
Senator McCaskill’s move after the testimony of military sexual assault survivors during the hearing comes in response to a recent case at Aviano Air Base in Italy, where a Lieutenant Colonel who was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to a year in prison had his sentence overturned by a Lieutenant General without explanation.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has responded to the outcry over Franklin’s actions by calling for a review of the UCMJ provisions that give commanders to override a court martial.