Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Military death penalties: The box score

Except for cases like bin Laden, I’m not a fan of capital punishment, ever since 30 years ago when I interviewed a D.C. homicide detective who told me about a case in which he was certain a guy had done it and sent him off to prison — and then learned years later that he ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Except for cases like bin Laden, I'm not a fan of capital punishment, ever since 30 years ago when I interviewed a D.C. homicide detective who told me about a case in which he was certain a guy had done it and sent him off to prison -- and then learned years later that he had focused on the wrong guy. (To his credit, he worked hard to get the innocent guy released, and succeeded.)

So, while the following admittedly is gruesome, I was intrigued to see a military law blog break out by service the rates at which the death penalty sentence has been imposed in recent decades in cases where it is possible:

USAF: 11 capital courts-martial; 2 adjudged death sentences (18 percent capital sentencing rate)

Except for cases like bin Laden, I’m not a fan of capital punishment, ever since 30 years ago when I interviewed a D.C. homicide detective who told me about a case in which he was certain a guy had done it and sent him off to prison — and then learned years later that he had focused on the wrong guy. (To his credit, he worked hard to get the innocent guy released, and succeeded.)

So, while the following admittedly is gruesome, I was intrigued to see a military law blog break out by service the rates at which the death penalty sentence has been imposed in recent decades in cases where it is possible:

USAF: 11 capital courts-martial; 2 adjudged death sentences (18 percent capital sentencing rate)

U.S. Army: 21 capital courts-martial; 7 adjudged death sentences (33 percent capital sentencing rate)

USCG: 0 capital courts-martial; 0 adjudged death sentences

USMC: 14 capital courts-martial; 7 adjudged death sentences (50 percent capital sentencing rate)

USN: 6 capital courts-martial; 0 adjudged death sentences (0 percent capital sentencing rate)

This broke out pretty much as I expected, except for the Navy. I thought the Marine Corps would have the highest rate, followed by the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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