JAG in Space: Rule of Evidence , by Jack Campbell
It’s hard to believe that even in the US military legal system a case could ever come to court where there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for a crime having been committed. There’s probably even evidence against those who are arguably illegally incarcerated without trial in the nefarious Guantanamo Bay, albeit inadmissible or insufficient to convict in any normal court of law. Aside from that, this is, in parts, another fine piece of military science fiction from Jack Campbell.
In the opening scenes the USS Michaelson, a spacegoing warship in the US Navy, is on a joint exercise with allied Russian and European ships, showing off their abilities to the South Asian Alliance. Whilst the US and other vessels demonstrate their inability to react effectively to an interfering SASAL ship the HMS Lord Nelson demonstrates the calm cool decisiveness for which the RN is renowned and sees-off the intruder so that the exercises can proceed as planned.
The US decides a show of strength is called for. The Michaelson and her sister-ship the Maury are dispatched to voyage, cloaked, at high speed, just inside the border of US and SASAL space territories and then to uncloak and reveal themselves to the unsuspecting South Asians. To get an idea of the impact this might have think of it as a bit like having a couple of evil empire nuclear-missile submarines suddenly surface 200 miles off New York harbour and turn on all their party lights and attack radars. Or of them revealing a missile base in Cuba. Provocative.
The court case ramps up in the aftermath of the ensuing fiasco. It’s a gripping court case in which the total absence of evidence is treated in all deadly seriousness as in itself evidence sufficient to convict.
I’m afraid JAG 3 isn’t really up to the standard of JAGs 1 and 2: the outcome is heavily signposted throughout the book and almost every minor character is there just to bring in an improbable or implausible plot element. I suspect Campbell’s heart wasn’t in it this time.