Kish followed up with allegations that Palmer’s statements during a June 2012 legal training session showed bias. These will be the focus of the upcoming post-trial fact-finding hearing, which military law experts call unusual for its attention to a miliary judge’s actions.
On June 21, 2012, Palmer was delivering a professional military education talk to five junior Marine Corps officers. Two officers subsequently filed statements about what he said.
“He encouraged the junior officers to aggressively charge and prosecute cases, stating that Congress and the commandant of the Marine Corps wanted more convictions, and opined that trial counsel should assume the defendant is guilty,” the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals summed up in a decision last November.
The Navy and Marine Corps appellate court, though, until now has generally declined to second-guess Palmer’s decision-making. For instance, the appellate court last November upheld the conviction of Pearce, the former chief warrant officer accused of fraternization and other charges, in a court-martial overseen by Palmer.
“We do not countenance the comments made by the military judge, however, we are convinced that (Pearce’s) court-martial was a fair and impartial proceeding,” the appellate court said.
The same court took a different tack Thursday in ordering a new sentence for Bremer, the former lance corporal and weapons specialist who judges say was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The Bremer case differs from the others, in part because the June 2012 trial involved Palmer’s aggressive attempt to defend his judicial reputation once questions arose about his statements.
Palmer’s actions, the appellate court concluded Thursday, “would lead a reasonable person to question whether he lost his fairness and impartiality and became primarily focused on protecting himself.”
The fact-finding hearing in the Kish case is supposed to be finished by late June, after which appellate judges will decide the next step for Kish and, in time, the other convicted Marines who want another chance.