Photo: Prudence Siebert via US Army
When Robert Bales allegedly slipped from his quarters and murdered 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year, he was quickly charged and locked up in the U.S.The U.S. military announced today it does not plan to go easy on Bales and intends to take his life if he’s found guilty.
That decision was made by “a high ranking commanding officer who decides to bring the case to a court martial,” according to the Death Penalty Information centre, but it may not be as final as it sounds.
Death penalty cases in the military are uncommon and only 49 have made their way to the courts since 1961. Actual executions, however, have not happened in that time at all.
Military executions used to be more common, and from 1942 to 1961 there were 160 military executions, but in 1961 the practice was outlawed until Ronald Reagan reintroduced it in 1984.
Since then 49 death penalty cases have been tried and 15 servicemembers convicted. None have yet been put to death and sentences have been reversed twice by the commanding general. Appeals courts have reversed, commuted, or ordered new trials, leaving five servicemembers currently on death row.
Three of those former troops have pending appeals, one had his death writ signed by President George Bush and wound up appealed to federal district court, and the last condemned soul awaits President Obama’s signature to end his life.
The last person to be executed by the U.S. military was PFC John A. Bennett who was hanged at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth Kansas, in the boiler room.
While some declare the military wants to kill one of its own for the first time in more than 50 years, it’s important to realise it isn’t in the habit of actually letting those executions take place.
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