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[1]) or Special Court-Martial (which, depending on the offense, can impose a sentence up to one year in confinement and a bad-conduct discharge[2]) 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[3]). 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.[4] The charges are brought forward by an officer called a "convening authority",[5] and the convening authority also personally selects each of the members who will try the accused.[6] The charges which have been levied by the convening authority are prosecuted at courts-martial by Judge Advocates called "trial counsel".[7] Accused persons facing general or special courts-martial receive representation free of charge from Judge Advocates acting as defense counsel.[8] Accused persons may also be represented at general or special courts-martial by civilian attorneys hired at their own expense.[9] 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.


Jury composition

A special court-martial must have at least three members.[10] A general court-martial must have at least five members[10] unless the death penalty is a mandatory sentence, in which case there must be at least 12 members.[11] 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."[12]

If the accused person is a commissioned officer, then all of the members must also be commissioned officers.[13] If the accused person is a warrant officer, then the members may be either commissioned officers or warrant officers.[13] 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.[13] 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.[14] All members of the court-martial are required to be senior or equal in rank to the accused person.[15]


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.[16] 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.[17] If the death penalty is mandatory if convicted, then the members must be unanimous in their verdict.[18] As such, military juries are incapable of being a hung.


See also

External links

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