If the case is referred capitally, the defendant cannot choose a bench [judge only] trial; rather, the case must be tried before a panel of at least five military members (DPIC note: now 12 members are required on the panel for a capital case (RCM 501(a)).
The Uniform Code of Military Justice also precludes the defendant in a capital case from pleading guilty.
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.
Finally, even if every member agrees upon the existence of an aggravating factor and concludes that the evidence in aggravation outweighs the extenuating and mitigating evidence, any member is still free to choose a sentence other than death.
Thus, members must unanimously conclude that death is an appropriate sentence.
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.