Now that we know United States v. Bozicevich will end in a non-capital sentence, we can update the statistics for military death penalty cases.

Under the current military death penalty system, which President Reagan promulgated in January 1984, there have been 52 known capital courts-martial resulting in 16 adjudged death sentences, for a 30.8% death sentencing rate.  (Convening authorities commuted two of the adjudged death sentences and appellate courts reversed eight of the approved death sentences.)

Here’s a breakdown by branch:

USAF:  11 capital courts-martial; 2 adjudged death sentences  (18% capital sentencing rate)

U.S. Army:  21 capital courts-martial; 7 adjudged death sentences (33% capital sentencing rate)

USCG:  0 capital courts-martial; 0 adjudged death sentences

USMC:  14 capital courts-martial; 7 adjudged death sentences (50% capital sentencing rate)

USN:  6 capital courts-martial; 0 adjudged death sentences (0% capital sentencing rate)

Historically, about 25% of the military death penalty caess tried in the current system have resulted in a non-unanimous finding of guilty to premeditated murder or felony murder, thereby eliminating death as an authorized sentence.

[Correction:  The original post misstated the percentage of Army cases resulting in a death sentence when I accidentally repeated one of the raw numbers in lieu of the percentage.  Gordon Smith caught the error.  Thanks!]

15 Responses to “Updated military death penalty stats [CORRECTED]”

  1. Barrister1966 says:

    Any idea how this compares to the Federal Civilian system? The US Attorney’s Manual on Capital requires reporting & review of such statistics. As I believe they have a better system of evaluating cases and whether or not to refer capital, I would think their results would be statistically “better.” The military has shown little ability to properly evaluate & prosecute such cases, thus wasting MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars.

  2. Ama Goste says:

    At least 2 of that number resulted in full acquittals (1 USAF, 1 Army).

  3. Dwight Sullivan says:

    There have been three capital courts-martial for premeditated murder or felony murder of which I’m aware in which the accused was totally acquitted of any form of homicide. But in one of those cases, the accused was found guilty of a comparatively minor offense.

    The first was the case of United States v. Chrisco, No. ARMY 8800382, a V Corps case that resulted in a total acquittal on 4 Feb. 1988.

    The second was the case of Airman Calvin E. Hill, who was found not guilty of premeditated murder and obstruction of justice on 16 May 2006 by a court-martial sitting at Bolling Air Force Base. Hill pled guilty to some larcenies, for which the members fined him $2,780 and imposed 90 days of hard labor without confinement.

    Most recently, the case of United States v. Martinez, tried at Ft. Bragg, NC, resulted in a full acquittal on 4 December 2008.

  4. Stewie says:

    Which is why the military should adopt the USAM’s model (with modifications) for preferral. Right now, we have no delineated capital specific preferral process, we treat it like any other case.

  5. Gordon Smith says:

    Shouldn’t the capital sentencing rate for the Army be approximately 31% rather than 21%?

  6. Stewie says:

    If you include the 10 reversals/commutations, then it’s 11.5 percent of capital referred cases that make it all the way through without being overturned (ignoring the high likelihood that at least one of the current cases on appeal/habeus review isn’t likely to stand).

    What’s the equivalent rate in the civilian world?

  7. Ama Goste says:

    What USAF case got overturned along the way, as only Witt sits on death row right now from the USAF?

  8. Dwight Sullivan says:


    Simoy was reversed due to the same instructional error that resulted in the reversal of Thomas. United States v. Simoy, 50 M.J. 1 (C.A.A.F. 1998).

  9. The_Man_Not_From_Piedmont says:

    If the military ever pulls the trigger and executes someone, where will they do it? Is Leavenworth “Death-ready” to pull the lever/push the button?

  10. Cap'n Crunch says:

    Anyone working on Witt have any sort of status update? I know its been docketed at AFCCA. Has briefing concluded? Argument held?

  11. Stewie says:

    I believe Terre Haute, Indiana. There is a single federal prison there that does all federal executions and that’s where they would also do any military executions.

    The DB is not set up to do executions.

  12. Bill B says:

    Stewie: I may be wrong, but I seem to recall that there was a death chamber in the new DB, but the Army Medical Department has declined to participate in any executions, necessitating discussions with the BoP and the possible use of Terre Haute. Anyone know more on this issue?

  13. Ama Goste says:

    From a 2006 Army reg on the matter, it appears there is a death chamber at the USDB, although other locations are available for military condemned to die.

    I can’t speak to the Army doctor issue, but I did see that the gas chamber was invented by an Army Medical Service Corps member.

  14. Gordon Smith says:

    Stewie:I may be wrong, but I seem to recall that there was a death chamber in the new DB, but the Army Medical Department has declined to participate in any executions, necessitating discussions with the BoP and the possible use of Terre Haute.Anyone know more on this issue?

    I think there is a space set aside at the USDB for potential use in executions, but it has not actually been equipped to function in that role. I haven’t heard anything about an alleged refusal of Army medical personnel to participate in executions.

  15. Stewie says:

    When Gray got his death warrant signed, he was set to go to Terre Haute, prior to the federal litigation he is currently in.

    Granted at that time, there wasn’t even a means specified for accomplishing execution, which has now been solved so that could have been the reason they had no plans to use the DB.

    It’s been a couple of years since I had intimate knowledge of the DB (not that kind of intimate) so things could have changed since then.

    I’d be surprised though.