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Army Staff Sergeant 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, a San Diego judge ruled Wednesday.

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

    The request related to Trompeter's clothes was made by the plaintiffs in the case, who asked that he not be allowed to wear his uniform or discuss his military service. They said it could prejudice a jury in his favor.

    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)

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

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

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

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

    Dan White argues that allowing active-duty servicemembers to wear their uniform in such a case is no different from a physician describing their background. He said Trompeter has the right, and indeed, the obligation" to wear his uniform.

    "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."

    In court papers, the plaintiffs argued that "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.