Yesterday, Army SGT James T. Murphy was resentenced to life with eligibility for parole, a DD, reduction to E-1, and total forfeiture of pay and allowances.  The sentence was adjudged under a pretrial agreement providing for a non-capital referral.  Because SGT Murphy’s death-eligible offenses (three premeditated murders) were committed before the statute establishing LWOP took effect, the sentence he received was the maximum that could be imposed by a non-captial court-martial.

Murphy is one of eight cases tried under the current post-1983 military death penalty system in which the death sentence was set aside on appeal.  In seven of those eight cases, the original death sentence was replaced by confinement for life.  The eighth case, Quintanilla, remains pending at the trial level.

20 Responses to “Another former military death row inmate resentenced to life”

  1. Article16 says:

    No reprimand, however.

  2. Omar says:

    Mr. Sullivan’s most excellent and accurate statistical analysis of DP cases would at some point enlighten CA’s to reconsider capital referrals. All good military officers will perform a risk analysis balanced with concerns of justice, GO&D, and unfortunately, public opinion. How, in good conscience, can a CA want to refer Capital when there is a 90-100% chance of reversal on direct appeal, followed by a subsequent life sentence (with or w/o parole). Are SJA’s afraid to recommend non-cap referrals? Or are the CA’s afraid of seeming “weak” on MJ issues.

    Nearly all military DC in capital cases are “incompetent” according to ABA and SCOTUS standards re learned counsel. Which is not an indictment by me, but a reality and a kudos to those who perform the function brilliantly despite their qualifications promulgated standards. I have seen the absolute briliance and competence of these counsel. But if the military is unwilling to raise the bar, provide the money and expertise, perhaps trying capital cases in the military has run its course.

    Omar might read too much CAAFlog, but I have learned greatly from the experience. Omar bids you all competence and peace.

  3. John Harwood says:

    John wonders why Omar refers to himself in the third person?

  4. Omar says:

    Mr. Hardwood: Omar’s shrink told him not to refer to himself in the third person. Omar just wouldn’t listen. Omar thanks you for the inquiry.

  5. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    Military justice exists to serve the cause of good order and discipline. The act of making a capital referral, in my opinion, serves the cause of military justice. So does obtaining a death sentence.

    It is human nature, after all, to perceive only those things in the short term. Everyone will remember that some guy got the death penalty–nobody pays attention to what happens years later when everyone in the command has long since moved on and some appellate court rules on the case.

    Therefore, the rational CA may well make a capital referral and approve a death sentence, even knowing with near certainty the sentence will be overturned years later, because his concern is good order and discipline here and now.

    Of course, this short-term view of things is also why the UCMJ only requires a 3- and 5-day waiting period for special and general courts-martial, respectively. Getting a case done with dispatch also serves the cause of good order and discipline; delay undermines the cause, which is too bad. The appalling delay in getting cases to trial these days is something the military justice system needs to take a very hard look at.

  6. Anonymous says:

    There is no evidence that the death penalty affects in the slightest general deterrence and at least some evidence that it does the opposite.

    Premeditated murder is such an extreme event, that it is unlikely that someone goes through the thought process of, I want to kill this person, but I know Snuffy got the death penalty two months ago, so maybe I shouldn’t.

    So I see no payoff in military justice, that exceeds or even meets the other side, which is that we can’t do the process right, we spend millions of dollars, and then we have to nearly every time do it over again and for a lesser punishment.

    It doesn’t make much sense except for retribution, eye for an eye. Maybe that’s good enough, but I’m having a hard time seeing the value.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Maybe Omar just watched that repeat of Seinfeld where Jimmy refers to himself in 3rd person – it spread to George doing same. On a substantive note though, Omar, why is it unfortunate to consider public opinion? Don’t we consider that when deciding whether an act is service discrediting? Isn’t it inherent when determining what is justice? And public opinion isn’t always against the DP.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I concur with anon 12:11pm. DP proponents say “to hell with the rehabilitation factor of sentencing.” Their emphasis is on retribution only; payback mf’er! CAs need SJAs who are not afraid to push back a bit on those in the chain who are recommending the DP. Either spend the $$ now to get an adequate defense or kick it down the road for a different CA to spend more $$ on getting a result that could’ve been achieved without a capital referral. Sadly, DP proponents aren’t much different than birthers when it comes to compromise on this issue.

  9. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    Anon 151pm–Nice strawman you set up in the last sentence, I hope you enjoyed knocking it down.

    There are components of good order and discipline other than rehabilitation and deterrence. I’ve seen it in many a command where a well-known case (at least within the command) drags on, with no resolution in sight, and the accused is widely perceived as having got away with something. Such perceptions and grumblings can be and are terribly corrosive to good order and discipline.

    I’m agnostic on the death penalty. I do believe it has its place, but it is evident that modern courts (perhaps reflecting society) are scared silly by the death penalty and will go to great lengths to disapprove or otherwise avoid affirming a death sentence. On top of that, getting a death sentence approved by the president is a once-in-a-decade occurrence, if that. However, just because it’s wildly unlikely a death sentence will ever actually be executed doesn’t mean that in the appropriate case a CA should refrain from referring a capital case.

    My larger point about short-term outlooks stands. A good CA can take advantage of that, in pursuing the cause of good order and discipline, while still being reasonable. A few months after a trial, most everyone has forgotten about it. That’s about the time the CA is acting on a case. The ends of good order and discipline have largely been served by the command seeing a wrongdoer tried and punished quickly. When it comes time for action, the CA can and should be generous with his clemency powers to mitigate sentences and cure possible error at his level. It’s incredibly frustrating to see case after case with obvious issues arrive at the appellate level with a pro forma “approved as adjudged” action, spend a year or two in appellate litigation, then get sent back down for correction, when a smart CA and SJA could have cured the error at the time of action by perhaps throwing out a finding or two and reducing the sentence by a few months.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Strawman? No, no strawman. I believe the only value in the death penalty is retribution, and possibly, specific deterrence. It isn’t general deterrence, and it isn’t rehabilitation.

    I also don’t think getting a quick (likely because it would be a plea bargain) LWOP sentence would somehow be more prone to “drag on” than a long death penalty process where the witnesses are dragged in two years later, where the story is in the news for 2 or more straight years, and where half the darn base has PCS’d from the time of the act to the sentence.

    There is nothing short-term about a death penalty trial, it is as “long-term” as you can possibly get at every single stage of the process. So your position is to me quite perplexing.

    Now if your argument is that a CA should refer Capital, and then on clemency reduce it to LWOP, well, that’s one way to go, but that’s never going to happen so if we are talking about strawmen…

  11. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    We’re kind of talking past each other; I’m probably not being as clear as I want to be. We’d probably agree more than we disagree.

    As for strawman, I was referring to your comment in the last sentence of your first comment comparing death penalty proponents to birthers. If you prefer, I’ll call it an ad hominem attack. It was pointless to your argument, and served only to diminish the valid points you were making.

    Enjoy your weekend!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I misread which anon you were addressing. I’m not anon 151 but can’t say I disagree with his/her post. I perhaps wouldn’t have done the birther comparison, but will say that DP proponents do seem pretty set in their belief that the DP serves a good purpose in society, and IMO there is little evidence that it serves any purpose other than retribution.

  13. Anon says:

    Actually Anonymous you can take your liberal tree-hugging crap somewhere else. Let me put this in plain language;

    The death Penalty is about justice. You kill someone unlawfully without just cause you should die.

    Unfortunately Lawyers like yourself make their way into the Judiciary and thrust your point of view by remanding DP cases for the most pathetic of reasons.

    The reason is retribution – so what is your problem? Do we need a “higher” reason, one that was more “nuanced”.

    If we were to take your illogical position further we shouldn’t jail drug users either – since it serves no purpose. While we are at it we should let go of pedophiles and rapists. I mean since jailing them is only about retribution.

    Please crawl back into your judicial-activist cubical and keep your inane comments to yourself – you run the risk of contaminating young impressible lawyers with your awful demagoguery.


    “If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call.”

    John McAdams – Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on deterrence

  14. Anonymous says:

    8/ Follower of Mr. Shovell’s philosophy? That may be an ad hom, but come on – where to start with this one? Do we even? Shouldn’t let CAAFlog get sucked into guano-crazier dialog.

  15. Anonymous says:

    So, if it’s as simple as you kill someone, you die, then why do 95%+ of all murderers not end get the death penalty at trial?

    It aint because of “liberal tree-hugging lawyers.”

    We actually shouldn’t jail drug users either. The rate of children using drugs in 1970? It is exactly the same as the rate of children using drugs today. Just Say No? Just Did Nada. We haven’t made a dent in drug use, in fact, statistics show drug use increase if one has been incarcerated. What we have done is spent billions and billions of dollars for nothing.

    As for the entirety of your argument, you apparently are confusing life without parole with letting people out of jail.

    It is the only possible reason I can see for why you’d respond with arguments for not jailing pedophiles or rapists to an argument that says LWOP instead of the death penalty.

    But hey, you were able to pick a big-sounding word like demagoguery out of the dictionary, so, you know, kudos.

  16. Anon says:

    Anon 2352 – I doubt if you know any “tree huggers” much less anyone involved in DP cases. You apparently do not know about the MANY cases of people on death row, who have been totally exonerated, some just days before their executions. And, you miss the point about most of the comments on this thread – if the DP were about justice, then why not do it right the first time around?

    I won’t convince you to the contrary, but I suggest that you might want to read John Grisham’s “An Innocent Man,” his non-fictional account of someone falsely convicted of capital murder, who went insane on death row before he was exonerated.

    If you’re a military justice wonk, then read “The Wrong Guys: Murder, False Confessions and the Norfolk Four,” by Tom Wells and Richard Leo.

  17. anonymous says:

    This blog really really needs to do away with anonymous posts.

  18. Article16 says:

    I wonder if executioners still wear hoods anywhere in the world.

  19. Anonymous says:

    No, it’s the opposite. SJAs are actually afraid to take cases to capital referrals because they know how paternalistic the CCAs are and they wil find error if they want to do so.