Military Death Sentence Vacated

An Army Court of Criminal Appeals has vacated the death sentence of William Kreutzer, a Fort Bragg soldier who was sent to the military’s death row for killing a fellow soldier and wounding others in 1995. The Court cited a number of grounds for the ruling that opens the door for rehearings on some charges and the sentence. For example, Kreutzer’s attorneys failed to adequately explain the significance of their client’s mental health problems for the panel that determined his guilt and sentence. In the ruling, Col. James S. Currie noted, “Appellant’s trial can be summed up in one sentence: Three defense counsel who lacked the ability and experience to defend this capital case were further hampered by the military judge’s erroneous decision to deny them necessary expert assistance, thereby rendering the contested findings and the sentence unreliable.” Court documents revealed that Kreutzer had considered suicide at age 16 and “fantasized out loud” about killing fellow soldiers after they teased him and played practical jokes on him. The Appeals Court criticized the trial judge for refusing to grant a defense request for a “mitigation specialist,” who could explain how Kreutzer’s mental health problems contributed to his actions. See Military Death Penalty. See also Representation.

Pentagon List Gives Names of 169 Military Members Who Were Executed

A list containing the names of 169 members of the U.S. military who were executed between 1942 and 1961 was recently discovered at the Pentagon. The list also contains a few dozen additional cases where persons were sentenced to death, but not executed, and the names of 7 German prisoners of war who were executed. The 1961 execution of Pvt. John Bennett, who was hung after convictions for rape and attempted murder, was the military’s last execution. The ledger also includes the name of Pvt. Eddie Slovik, who is the only member of the U.S. military to be executed for desertion since the Civil War. The list was discovered by accident by Pentagon employees and was made public as the military prepares to try accused terrorists currently held at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The death penalty is a possible sentence in such military tribunals. (Associated Press, December 12, 2003)