Innocent until proven guilty

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shanice Williams-Jones
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The room grew quiet as the audience fixated on the Airman sitting on the stage. The only sound was a deep, shaky sigh from the Airman as his eyes shifted from side to side. He rubs his palms on his bouncing knees and looks to the floor as he relives the horrors of the night he awoke to discover someone in the process of violating him.

This is just a glimpse of what happened when representatives of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team and the Special Victims’ Counsel office, conducted a mock court-martial to promote understanding of sexual assault and the military justice system on Feb. 22 at the Strike Eagle Complex here.

The event was an imitation trial that provided the community a unique opportunity to see how the military justice system operates. Legal professionals and the SAPR coordinator provided in-depth commentary explaining the process in small detail.

The event incorporated personnel from various commands like the 501st Combat Support Wing.

"What's really special about this mock trial is we show the parts that would always be sealed to the public," said Capt. Kristin A. Carl, the SVC here and assigned to the Air Force Legal Operations Agency. "It has to do with people’s past sexual behavior, which is sensitive and the idea is to protect victims and accused from having their names dragged through the mud."

Though the trial itself was not real, the message, aided by the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, highlighted a very real situation some Airmen find themselves in.

"We get so much training on SAPR and the government tells us we need to have awareness, know reporting procedures and the idea of consent, but these situations happen," Carl said.

The area defense counsel also provided valuable insight concerning the rights and litigation processes within a military court martial for individuals who have been accused of crimes.

"I have so many clients who feel like reporting or not reporting is the biggest, and only, step they have," said Carl. That's not wrong because it is certainly a huge decision, but that is the first of many steps. If you want to see someone held accountable to the fullest extent, then a trial is what will happen."

According to Carl, another goal of the mock trial is to provide an added frame of reference for leadership to support Airmen and their families across the wing.

"I have seen quite a few trials and was so shocked by the outcome and verdict," said Ashley Dixon, the drug demand reduction program manager assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing. "I know the military is strict, but to see it in action solidifies that in my mind. Seeing the end of the process helps you think of how to navigate through such a difficult situation with minimal harm to not only the Airmen, but their families as well."

The next mock trial is scheduled for March 2 at 11 a.m. at the Strike Eagle Complex here.