Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Fifth Thought, a Court-Martial Might Have Been a Better Option

A defendant who was a soldier at the time of the murders of his ex-wife and the ex-wife's mother might have wished the Army had tried him at a general court-martial instead of facing charges in state court.  After 2 hung juries and 4 mistrials, Brent Burke remains in pretrial confinement 3.5 years after the deaths. 

If the military had prosecuted Burke, having a hung jury would be impossible.  That's because there is 1 vote on findings at a court-martial.  If the members' votes reach the required quantum (2/3 of the panel in most cases, unanimous in capital cases), the accused is guilty.  If that vote results in less than the quantum needed, the verdict is not guilty.