Rule of Court Martial 706 allows military defense attorneys to request a mental examination of their client to determine whether the he or she lacked mental responsibility at the time of the alleged acts. For example, in the upcoming case of United States v. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales , the sanity board request will be extremely important. If the board finds that he lacked mental responsibility for the offenses charged, he may not be tried.
Routinely, trial counsels opposed to the sanity board, and the chain of command follows their advice. It remains for military defense attorneys to collect all the facts to persuade the chain of command, and if necessary, the judge, that a mental examination is critical. Some of the warning signs may be:
- History of mental problems
- Stress, depression, mental or emotional trauma
- Erratic, unusual behavior
- Suicide attempts
- Post-deployment stressors
This list is not exclusive. In Staff Sergeant Bales' case, based on the initial reports, it appears that he suffered from at least a few warning signs mentioned here.
Sanity Boards reveal additional medical issues that many Servicemembers face, in addition to their known medical history. Such findings may be very useful during the actual trial. Also, it is important to note that once the defense places its client's medical history at issue, the trial counsel will have access to it as well. As such, it is critical to control what the trial counsel will have access to. Finally, sometimes, sanity boards are not done properly, and some questions are not answered by those who examine a particular Servicemember. In such cases, it is critical for military defense attorneys to protect their clients' rights by using RCM 706 to their advantage.
If you are looking for experienced military defense attorneys who know how to handle requests for sanity boards under RCM 706, how to gather facts, engage the chain of command, and persuasively argue in front of a military judge, contact The Federal Practice Group for a consultation.