Seth M. Engel


Since at least the seventeenth century, courts have required that confessions or admissions be corroborated by independent evidence to be admissible at trial. After the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces decided United States v. Adams, a case interpreting the military’s version of the corroboration rule, Congress quickly took action in response. Within months, Congress passed a law directing the President to rewrite the military’s corroboration rule, and a new rule was subsequently promulgated. Why was Congress so intent on overruling a military appellate court’s interpretation of an ancient and obscure rule of evidence? What was wrong with the court’s former corroboration rule? What does the new rule do differently? This Article seeks to answer those questions. This Article concludes that the impetus for amending the rule was an effort to control the impact that the court’s interpretation of the corroboration rule would have on sexual assault prosecutions. Further, after analyzing the old and new corroboration rules, this Article concludes that the new rule, as promulgated by the President, has the effect of overturning Adams and likely returns the corroboration rule back to what it had been prior to the Adams decision.