While endemic racism in the Union army tainted the disciplinary process on other levels, the records reveal that officers on general court-martial panels wrestled with providing fair judicial process to black defendants while maintaining discipline so that African American soldiers received equal treatment and justice in cases involving capital-level crimes.
A general court-martial was to have thirteen members, though a lesser number could be detailed so long as the panel consisted of at least five members (and while members could be temporarily relieved for good cause, a panel could not conduct proceedings once its number fell below five sitting members).
While not provided for in the regulations, higher authorities occasionally ordered drumhead courts-martial, despite regulations that no soldier should suffer death except by concurrence of two-thirds of the members of a general court-martial.
While generally applied to situations where soldiers resisted orders or acted violently, some commanders of black troops overstepped their authority and shot soldiers where a lesser punishment, or at least trial by general court-martial, was appropriate.
Some court-martial panels even considered the defendant's familiarity with military regulations, in keeping with initiatives to ensure that black troops understood that army discipline was not based on the rule of individuals but a codified structure of law.
Procedurally, a defendant facing a general court-martial during the Civil War had the right to challenge members of the panel and was informed of his right to retain counsel.
At times, the court-martial process also validated an idea that civilian blacks had rights to testify to events, not just those blacks in uniform.
The English Court-Martial system appears as early as 1296 in the role of a military court attached to the army in Scotland.
The court-martial which tried Lance Sergeant Findlay was convened under Section 86 of the Army Act 1955 by the convening officer, who would be a General Officer in command of the formation to which the accused's unit was attached.
Similarly, when the finding and sentence of the court-martial was confirmed by the convening officer it was done so on advice from the Judge Advocate General.
7) It stated that the convening officer played a central role in the prosecution of the case and that all the members of the court-martial board were subordinate in rank to him and under his command.
It was hoped that the Act would ensure that the court-martial system would comply more fully with the European Convention on Human Rights and thus survive any similar challenges in the future.
This was a massive undertaking involving scrutiny of all aspects of the disciplinary system, from internal unit level to that of the Court-Martial Appeal Court.
Should adultery be a court-martial offense for members of the armed services in this liberated age?
If a court-martial for participating in an adulterous affair is a steadfast rule in the military, she should adhere to it and not run to the media to cry sexism.