Soldier Can't Wear Uniform in Court: Judge

Plaintiffs argued that by wearing his uniform, the defendant would be "waving the flag" in the jury trial

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A U.S. Army staff sergeant defending himself in a traffic accident case cannot wear his uniform in the courtroom because of a ruling by a San Diego judge.

    Special Section: San Diego Military News

    Staff Sgt. Aaron Trompeter and his wife are defendants in a lawsuit prompted by a two-car collision in El Cajon.

    Trompeter is on active jury, but the judge ordered him to wear civilian clothes, so the jury doesn't give him special consideration for his military service.

    Soldier Can't Wear Uniform to Court: Judge

    [DGO]Soldier Can't Wear Uniform to Court: Judge
    An Army staff sergeant, defending himself in a traffic accident case, cannot wear his uniform in the courtroom. NBC 7's Matt Rascon explains why one local attorney, who's also an Army veteran, is very upset about this courtroom drama. (Published Thursday, Feb 20, 2014)

    Before the trial started, the plaintiffs made an interesting request of the judge. They asked that Trompeter not be allowed to wear his uniform or discuss his military service.

    They claimed it could prejudice the jury in his favor.

    Trompeter's lawyer disagreed, saying jurors are smart enough not to judge anyone's credibility by the uniform they're wearing.

    But Judge John Meyer sided with the plaintiff and ordered Trompeter to wear civilian dress in the courtroom.

    Trompeter and lawyers on both sides declined our request for an interview.

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    One prominent San Diego attorney who is also a military veteran, told NBC 7 he disagrees with the ruling.

    Dan White argues that active-duty military wearing their uniform in such a case is no different from a physician describing their background.

    “What is the difference practically speaking between that and some young man coming in and wearing his uniform? I see none,” White said.

    "He's 24/7, and this is what he does. It's no different than me showing up in the suit that I'm wearing today," White said. "This is his uniform, it's his duty uniform. It’s what he does. It’s who he’s all about."

    “He has the right, and indeed, the obligation to wear that.”

    In court papers, the plaintiffs argued "... it would be improper and prejudicial to permit the defendants to influence the jury by 'waving the flag,' as a result of having Mr.Trompeter appear at trial in his U.S. Army uniform..."

    The judge did allow testimony about Trompeter's occupation, so the jury knows he's on active duty as an Army staff sergeant.