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Article 32 hearing scheduled in double killing case

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFPN) -- An Article 32 hearing is set for Nov. 15 in the case of a senior airman charged with two counts of premeditated murder and one specification of attempted murder.

Senior Airman Andrew Paul Witt was charged with two counts of premeditated murder after the killings of Senior Airman Andrew Schleipsick and his wife, Jamie, in early July. Airman Witt was also charged with one specification of attempted murder, under Article 80 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, for a similar attack on Senior Airman Jason King.

Legal experts here said an Article 32 hearing is essentially a pre-trial investigation and is mandated by the UCMJ before court-martial proceedings take place. It has a four-fold purpose: to inquire into the truth of the charges, to consider the form of the charges, to recommend disposition of the charges and to provide the accused and his or her counsel an opportunity to see the prosecution evidence before trial.

The Article 32 investigation includes an official hearing which corresponds to a civilian grand jury proceeding. Unlike grand juries, however, the accused is entitled to rights afforded during a trial.

According to experts, these rights include: to be informed of the charges and the accuser, to have counsel present at all times during the proceedings, to confer with counsel, to present evidence and witnesses on his own behalf, and to challenge the prosecutions evidence and witnesses.

The defense has the choice of presenting matters or simply remaining silent and gaining insight into the government’s case.

In the Air Force, Article 32 investigating officers are always judge advocates. Legal experts said the investigating officer will be an impartial judge advocate who is not otherwise involved in the case.

He or she conducts an independent investigation and gives independent recommendations to the commander authorized to convene the court-martial. The investigating officer cannot be ordered to render a particular recommendation. (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)

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