Thursday, December 04, 2008

Putting Martinez into a historical perspective

Martinez is at least the third capital court-martial tried since the current military death penalty system took effect in 1984 to result in a total acquittal from the members. The first was also an Army case, United States v. Chrisco, (No. ACMR 8800382) (tried in February 1988). The second was Airman Calvin Hill, who was acquitted of murder in a May 2007 court-martial at Bolling Air Force Base. Hill did, however, plead guilty to some larcenies, for which the members fined him $2,780 and imposed 90 days of hard labor without confinement.

With Staff Sergeant Martinez's conviction, 15 of the known 49 actual capital courts-martial tried under the current post-1984 system have resulted in death sentences, for a 30.6% death sentence rate. But convening authorities set aside 2 of those 15 death sentences, so the system now has a 26.53% approved death sentence rate. (Of those thirteen, seven have been set aside on appeal, four remain pending at the CCA level, and two have been affirmed -- though one of those two affirmed death sentence cases -- Loving -- is currently before CAAF on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The other is Gray.)


Anonymous said...

So, who is going to be charged with these murders now? Was a more likely suspect revealed during Martinez's trial?

Anonymous said...


Can you provide a by-name listing of the cases and the status of each as an update to your excellent 2006 article on capital punishment in the military.

Semi-related Q to help me make a point in an argument with a co-worker - how much does it cost to try a capital case the first time around? How about the second time - like Quintinnia, Kruetzer, or Walker?


Anonymous said...

Non-lawyer here who came upon this blog while looking for news about the Martinez case. I have a question about the numbers needed for verdicts. In the civilian world, does it have to be unanimous either way, for acquittal or conviction? And, in the military world, what are the numbers required for conviction or acquittal? Thanks. Great blog by the way.

Anonymous said...

Anon 0749

The military justice world generally requires a verdict of 2/3 to convict on any charge - however, in a death penalty case the verdict must be unanimous on guilt to be eligible for the death sentence.

In most (I don't know if it is all) civilian jurisdictions, a verdict must be unanimous to support a finding of guilty.

The other big difference between the military and the civilian practice is that military juries vote only once. If 2/3+ vote to convict, the accused is guilty. If less, innocent. No hung juries. I hope this helps.

Dwight Sullivan said...

0725 Anon, thanks for the kind words about the article. Once we reach the end of this year, I'm actually planning to compile what will basically be a pocket part to that article with data from the last two years. I plan to peddle it to the Army Lawyer. If it's published, I'll post a link.

I haven't seen any studies done of the cost of trying a capital court-martial (once or twice), though such a study would be extremely important. That would be an outstanding research project for a TJAGLCS grad course student.

By the way, I believe that so far only one capital court-martial has actually be retried capitally. The rest were referred non-capitally the second time around or are still pending. The one that was retried capitally was Dock. The second court-martial resulted in a life sentence.

Dwight Sullivan said...

0749 Anon, two states allow non-unanimous verdicts in felony cases. In Oregon, 10 of 12 concurrence is sufficient and in Louisiana, 9 of 12 concurrence is sufficient. But these rules apply only in non-capital cases. Unanimity is required for verdicts in capital cases.

And thanks for your kind words about the blog.