State & Federal Info


People serving in the military are subject to a separate system of laws, courts, and procedures — including those regarding capital punishment.

Federal Death Penalty

Death Penalty Information Center Page: Additional Information on the Federal Death Penalty


People serving in the military are subject to a separate system of laws, courts, and procedures. Defendants retain certain rights guaranteed under the constitution, such as the right to representation.

The military death penalty has been used sparsely outside times of war. Only a few individuals are on the military death row, which is based at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. All were convicted of murder. There have been no executions in the modern era of the death penalty.

The military also has jurisdiction over military commissions, which are tribunals convened to try people accused of unlawful conduct associated with war, such as those established in Guantánamo Bay after the September 11, 2001 attacks. No one has been sentenced to death under these commissions.

News & Developments


Jan 10, 2019

Chaos Continues in Guantánamo Death-Penalty Trial, As Another Military Judge Quits

The already chaot­ic Guantánamo death-penal­ty tri­al of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, accused of orches­trat­ing the October 2000 attack on the U.S. Navy destroy­er USS Cole, hit anoth­er snag as the most recent judge assigned to pre­side over the con­tro­ver­sial pro­ceed­ings will be leav­ing the mil­i­tary and quit­ting the case. In a January 4, 2019 appel­late plead­ing recent­ly obtained by the McClatchy News Service, pros­e­cu­tors advised the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that Air Force Colonel Shelley Schools (pic­tured), assigned in August 2018 as the…

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Sep 28, 2023

Guantanamo Bay Judge Rules 9/​11 Capital Defendant Mentally Incompetent to Stand Trial

On September 21, 2023, a mil­i­tary judge in Guantanamo Bay ruled that Ramzi Bin al Shibh, one of five defen­dants in the 9/​11 case for whom the death penal­ty is being sought, is men­tal­ly incom­pe­tent to stand tri­al. Mr. Bin al Shibh, who has been detained for 21 years, will remain in cus­tody at Guantanamo as author­i­ties attempt to treat the post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der caused when he was forced to under­go enhanced inter­ro­ga­tions” by the U.S. government.

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Aug 22, 2023

Confessions of Guantanamo Detainee in Death Penalty Case Excluded as Product of Torture

On August 18, 2023, a mil­i­tary judge in Guantanamo Bay over­see­ing the pre­tri­al cap­i­tal pros­e­cu­tion of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the Saudi nation­al accused of orga­niz­ing the October 2000 bomb­ing of the U.S.S. Cole, exclud­ed Mr. al-Nishiri’s con­fes­sions as the prod­uct of tor­ture. Exclusion of such evi­dence is not with­out soci­etal costs,” said the judge, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., in a 50-page deci­sion. However, per­mit­ting the admis­sion of evi­dence obtained by or derived from tor­ture by the same gov­ern­ment that seeks to pros­e­cute and exe­cute the accused may have even greater…

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Feb 14, 2023

NEW VOICES: Ted Olson, Solicitor General in the Bush Administration, Calls for End to Guantánamo Death Penalty Cases

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Theodore B. Olson, for­mer U.S. Solicitor General from 2001 to 2004 dur­ing President George W. Bush’s admin­is­tra­tion, called for a halt to the use of the death penal­ty against those impli­cat­ed in the ter­ror­ist attacks of 9/​11. He rec­om­mend­ed that the cap­i­tal pro­ceed­ings against the defen­dants being held in Guantánamo Bay be brought to as rapid and just a con­clu­sion as possible.”

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Mar 18, 2022

Plea Talks Are Under Way in Guantánamo September 11 Case that Could Take Death Penalty Off the Table

Military pros­e­cu­tors and defense attor­neys are report­ed­ly dis­cussing plea deals that could take the death penal­ty off the table in the Guantánamo mil­i­tary com­mis­sion cas­es of five men accused of involve­ment in the September 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The nego­ti­a­tions, first report­ed by the New York Times on March 15, 2022 and sub­se­quent­ly con­firmed by defense coun­sel, would require alleged 9/​11 plan­ner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four oth­ers to plead guilty to charges of ter­ror­ism and con­spir­a­cy to com­mit mur­der in violation…

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Feb 15, 2022

Department of Justice Reverses Course, Rejects Use of Evidence Obtained by Torture in Guantánamo Death Penalty Case

In what one ana­lyst described as an impor­tant step to restore the rule of law,” the U.S. Department of Justice has pledged not to use state­ments obtained by tor­ture in its Guantánamo Military Commissions pros­e­cu­tion of Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Al-Nashiri. Al-Nashiri is accused of mas­ter­mind­ing the Al Qaeda sui­cide bomb­ing of the U.S.S. Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors in October 2000. The U.S. gov­ern­ment is seek­ing the death penal­ty against him.

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Jul 21, 2021

At Odds with Biden Administration’s Concern Over Use of Statements Obtained by Torture, Chief Guantánamo Prosecutor Retires

After clash­ing with Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials over the pro­pri­ety of using state­ments obtained through tor­ture from Guantánamo detainees, Army Brigadier General Mark S. Martins (pic­tured), the chief pros­e­cu­tor in the Guantánamo Military Commissions tri­als, will retire from the mil­i­tary on September 30, 2021. Martins, who had served as the com­mis­sions’ chief pros­e­cu­tor through­out the Obama and Trump admin­is­tra­tions, abrupt­ly sub­mit­ted papers on July 7 pro­vid­ing notice of his ear­ly retire­ment. Gen. Martins had recent­ly sought and obtained an exten­sion of his Guantánamo assign­ment until January 12023.

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Mar 06, 2020

News Brief — Recent Death-Penalty Decisions Through March 6

NEWS (3/​6/​20): The United States Court of Military Appeals has upheld the con­vic­tion and death sen­tence of Timothy Hennis, fol­low­ing his acquit­tal in North Carolina on the same charges. The court’s rul­ing, issued on February 28, reject­ed Hennis’ chal­lenges to the mil­i­tary court’s juris­dic­tion to try him for a May 1985 rape and triple murder.

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