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9, 2009 49: military cases in which the death penalty was sought since 1984 15: convictions in capital trials since then 2: times among the 15 that the commanding general has commuted the sentence to life 8: times an appeals court has reversed the conviction, commuted the sentence or ordered a new trial 5: defendants on death row, 3 of whom have appeals pending in military courts 2: condemned servicemen who have exhausted their military appeals. The other had his death writ signed by President George W.

Bush, but his case has been appealed to federal district court.

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Most of these aggravating factors -- such as killing more than one person or being the triggerman in a felony murder -- are similar to those found in civilian capital punishment schemes.Other factors -- such as committing an offense with the intent to avoid hazardous duty or knowingly endangering a mission -- are unique to the military.HOW MILITARY AND CIVILIAN TRIALS DIFFER A service member is entitled to an Article 32 hearing before he or she can be charged with a serious crime and face a court-martial.Similar to a grand jury proceeding, such a hearing is held in open court with attorneys for both sides present.Once decided, the convening authority picks those servicemembers who will serve as panel members/jurors.

One requirement for the panel is that if the accused so chooses, at least 1/3 of the panel must consist of enlisted personnel. (Rules for Courts-Martial 501(a)).(Unless otherwise noted, source: D.For crimes that occurred on or after November 17, 1997, a sentence of life without the possibility of parole became available.Prior to this legislation, those servicemembers serving a life sentence would have become eligible for parole after serving 10 years.•The commanding general who convenes the court-martial must approve the sentence and the conviction and can commute sentences he or she thinks are too harsh.•Before a condemned service member can be put to death, the president must sign an affirmative order explicitly approving the execution. In 1983, the Armed Forces Court of Appeals held in U. A 1997 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice offers a previously unavailable alternative to the death penalty.