Essay on Discipline and Justice in the Military and Navy

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Before 1951, the Army and Navy operated under laws derived directly from the British Articles of War in force prior to the Revolutionary War (Pound 2002). In those days, soldiers and sailors possessed few rights. The old system enforced discipline rather than justice. Punishments ranged from execution, flogging and hard labor with ball and chain. The changes began. In 1850, the Navy outlawed flogging. After World War I, the three levels of courts were introduced and continue to this day. These are the general, special and summary levels, applied according to the seriousness of the charges. The crucial time was World War II when 2 million martial courts were formed at a ratio of nearly 1 for every 8 American soldiers. These courts executed more than 100 servicemen and imprisoned 45,000. The Uniform Code of Military Justice was created by public demand and outcry. President Harry S. Truman signed the legislation on May 5, 1950. It was praised as the fairest system of military justice in the world (Pound).
This Code mingled old laws with new ones (Pound 2002). Under the new, commanding officers retained much power. This includes the responsibility to convene court-martials and choose jury panels. New checks were introduced, however, and these were similar to civilian procedures. The new Code created a formal appellate review system, which included the US Court of Military Appeals, now known as the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. More importantly, it expanded protections. It gave serviceman the right to remain silent and to be informed that any statement could be used against them at court-martial. The Code also gave them free military defense counsel in serious court-martial trials. From 1968 to 1983, court-martial t...

... middle of paper ... balances constitutional guarantees and fairness with the needs for proper order and discipline. She then said that those subject to military law did not have the same constitutional guarantees given under civilian law where justice is the objective. Critics observed that the military system of justice is broken down and that it is ironic and tragic that those who are sworn to protect the Constitution were often deprived of basic Constitutional rights. She also felt that court-martials are out of control. There are approximately 10,000 or more of these each year. This situation, the 98% conviction rate, the reality of untrained and understaffed defense attorneys and blatant command influence altogether were serious problems confronted by military personnel who confront the military rule of law (O’Meara).#

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