Military Justice: Courts-Martial, An Overview [March 14, 2012]   [open pdf - 290KB]

"Recent high profile military-related cases involving U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan, including the deadly attack on Afghan civilians allegedly by a servicemember, the accidental burning of the Quran, and servicemembers allegedly urinating on Afghan corpses, have resulted in increased public and congressional interest in military discipline and the military justice system. Many of these recent cases, including those of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the alleged shooter at Fort Hood, Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged source of leaked classified material through the organization WikiLeaks, and quite possibly, the recent attack on the Afghan civilians, have raised questions regarding the mental capacity of the accused and how the military justice system addresses this concern. In the criminal law system, some basic objectives are to discover the truth, acquit the innocent without unnecessary delay or expense, punish the guilty proportionately with their crimes, and prevent and deter further crime, thereby providing for the public order. Military justice shares these objectives in part, but also serves to enhance discipline throughout the Armed Forces, serving the overall objective of providing an effective national defense. […] The table that concludes this report compares selected procedural safeguards employed in criminal trials in federal criminal court with parallel protective measures in military general courts-martial."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R41739
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