United States military jury
A United States military jury (or "Members", in military parlance) serves a function similar to an American civilian jury, but with several notable differences. Only a General Court-Martial (which, depending on the offense, may impose any sentence including death and a dishonorable discharge) or Special Court-Martial (which, depending on the offense, can impose a sentence up to one year in confinement and a bad-conduct discharge) includes members. There are no members in a trial by Summary Court-Martial (which, depending on the offense, can impose a sentence up to 30 days in confinement). If the accused at a general court-martial or special court-martial chooses to be tried by members rather than by a military judge alone, then the members are responsible for both rendering a verdict and a sentence should the accused be found guilty of the charges. The charges are brought forward by an officer called a "convening authority", and the convening authority also personally selects each of the members who will try the accused. The charges which have been levied by the convening authority are prosecuted at courts-martial by Judge Advocates called "trial counsel". Accused persons facing general or special courts-martial receive representation free of charge from Judge Advocates acting as defense counsel. Accused persons may also be represented at general or special courts-martial by civilian attorneys hired at their own expense. While not required by Congressional law, service policy provides that many military accused receive the benefit of representation from a Judge Advocate defense counsel free of charge at summary courts-martial as well.
A special court-martial must have at least three members. A general court-martial must have at least five members unless the death penalty is a mandatory sentence, in which case there must be at least 12 members. The convening authority may detail as many members to a court-martial as he or she chooses so long as the minimum number is met. The convening chooses "such members of the armed forces as, in his [or her] opinion, are best qualified for the duty by reason of age, education, training, experience, length of service, and judicial temperament."
If the accused person is a commissioned officer, then all of the members must also be commissioned officers. If the accused person is a warrant officer, then the members may be either commissioned officers or warrant officers. If the accused person is an enlisted member of the armed forces, then the members may be commissioned officers, warrant officers, and, if the accused requests it, enlisted members. If an enlisted accused requests to be tried by a panel that includes enlisted members, then at least one-third of the members must be enlisted. All members of the court-martial are required to be senior in rank to the accused person.
The members vote by secret written ballot on each of the allegations the accused person faces, with each member having one vote on each charge. Unlike most civilian jurisdictions, a unanimous verdict is not required in most cases. Unless the death penalty is mandatory for the offense in question, the members may convict by a two-thirds majority. If the death penalty is mandatory if convicted, then the members must be unanimous in their verdict. As such, military juries are incapable of being a hung.
- U.S. News & World Report: Unequal Justice
- U.S. News & World Report: Creating a Code of Justice
- Dart Center: Injustice & the Military
- The Seven Basic Myths About Military Justice
- U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps