Why Military Death Penalty Cases Must Be Contested

Many readers have inquired about whether or not a military Defendant is permitted to plead Guilty in a court-matial authorized to adjudge the death penalty.  The simple answer – NO

Rule for Court-Martial (RCM) 910 provides the following:

A plea of guilty may not be received as to an  offense for which the death penalty may be adjudged by the court-martial.

Of course, the decision whether to recommend 0r refer a case as capital (death penalty eligible) rests with intermediate US Army commanders and ultimately, the General Court-Martial Convening Authority.  The aforementioned commanders are advised by US Army prosecutors and the Staff Judge Advocate who ultimately provides pretrial advice to the General Court-Martial Convening Authority.   If it sounds like a system that is stacked against the military accused – well, you are right.   As noted previously, the decision to engage in the very costly and time-consuming process of prusuing the death penalty in courts-martial rests with the Government, not the Defense.

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