Saturday, May 17, 2014

Honest Abe: courts-martial, military commissions and clemency

While working on one of my cases yesterday, I spent some time researching the issue of post-trial clemency in the military looking for some new/different approaches to advocating for the client.

In that mode, I came across an interesting historical analysis of President Abraham Lincoln’s use of clemency in courts-martial cases and also those tried by a military commission after the Santee-Sioux “war” in Minnesota in 1862, where 303 “warriors” were sentenced to death by the military commission. Lincoln commuted the death sentences of all except those convicted of rape, and massacres (of civilians), viz., those convicted of participation in military “battles” were granted clemency. [As a personal aside, I suspect that Prof. Lieber probably had some influence on that decision].

In any event, it is a short, informative historical read on post-trial clemency that in some ways is still quite relevant today. The article is titled Inside Lincoln's Clemency Decision Making. Here's a link to it.

For those interested in a more detailed analysis of the U.S.-Sioux War of 1862, Prof. Carol Chomsky's seminal article, The United States-Dakota War Trials: A Study in Military Injustice is here.

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