IN THE CASE OF
UNITED STATES, Appellee
Frank J. RONGHI, Staff Sergeant
Crim. App. No. 20000635
GIERKE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which CRAWFORD, C.J., EFFRON, BAKER, and ERDMANN, JJ., joined.
For Appellant: Captain Eilin J. Chiang (argued); Colonel Robert D. Teetsel, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Tellitocci, and Major Allyson G. Lambert (on brief); Captain Terri J. Erisman.
For Appellee: Captain Mark A. Visger (argued); Colonel Lauren B. Leeker, Lieutenant Colonel Margaret B. Baines, and Captain Charles C. Choi (on brief).
Military Judge: Kenneth H. Clevenger
This opinion is subject to editorial correction before final publication.
Judge GIERKE delivered the opinion of the Court.
passed a bill authorizing the court-martial punishment of confinement
without eligibility for parole (LWOP) on
was deployed with the 82d Airborne Division in Kosovo on
As a result of these brutal acts, Appellant pled guilty to and was found guilty of premeditated murder, indecent acts with a child under 16 years of age, and forcible sodomy of a child under 16 years of age, in violation of Articles 118, 134, and 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). 10 U.S.C. §§ 918, 934, 925 (2000). Appellant agreed to plead guilty under a pretrial agreement that provided for a non-capital referral.
At trial, both the
defense counsel and Appellant personally agreed that the maximum
punishment included LWOP. On
is well established that, absent a clear direction by Congress to the
a law takes effect on the date of its enactment.” United
States v. Pritt,
54 M.J. 47, 50 (C.A.A.F. 2000) (quoting Gozlon-Peretz
v. United States, 498
Article 56a Authorized LWOP for Premeditated Murder Offenses
Committed Starting the Day After Its Enactment
56a(a) of the UCMJ provides, “For any
which a sentence of confinement for life may be adjudged, a
adjudge a sentence of confinement for life without eligibility for
parole.” 10 U.S.C. §
(2000). The statute that added this
language to the UCMJ also provided that Article 56a “shall be
with respect to an offense committed after the date of the enactment of
Act.” Pub. L. No.
105-85, § 581(b),
111 Stat. at 1759. That
date of enactment was
Congress adopted Article 118, it provided only two authorized sentences
offenses of premeditated murder and felony murder:
“death or imprisonment for life.” Art.
118, UCMJ; 10 U.S.C. §
918 (2000). When it adopted
Article 56a, Congress plainly intended to authorize LWOP as a third
sentence for a premeditated murder that occurred after
The 2000 Manual for Courts-Martial
Did Not Conflict with the LWOP Statute
most of the UCMJ’s punitive articles, the
plays a role in determining the maximum authorized punishment. Article
provides, “The punishment which a court-martial may direct for an
not exceed such limits as the President may prescribe for that offense.” Art. 56, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C.
856 (2000). Article 18 similarly
authorizes the President to prescribe “limitations” on the punishments
by general courts-martial. Art. 18, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 818 (2000).
The Supreme Court has upheld the
constitutionality of this general delegation of Congress’s “authority
criminal punishments” for military offenses.
2000 edition of the Manual for Courts-Martial, which governed
provided that the maximum punishment for premeditated murder was
“death.” Manual for
the 2002 executive order that amended the Manual for Courts-Martial to
incorporate LWOP indicated that the punishment “shall only apply to
Another presidential limitation on court-martial sentencing authority is Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M.) 1003, which provides an exclusive list of the kinds of punishments that a court-martial may impose. The 2000 Manual’s version of R.C.M. 1003 did not specifically mention LWOP. Rather, the 2000 Manual’s version of R.C.M. 1003, like its predecessors, authorized “confinement” as a form of punishment without addressing the term of confinement at all. But R.C.M. 1003 nevertheless allowed LWOP, because it is not a new form of punishment, but simply a longer term of confinement than military law had previously allowed a court-martial to adjudge.7
State v. Allen, 488 S.E.2d 188 (N.C. 1997), the North Carolina
Court faced a similar issue. Under
The following punishments only shall be known to the laws of this State: death, imprisonment, fines, suspension of jail or prison term with or without conditions, restitutions, community service, restraints on liberty, work programs, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under this State.
XI, § 1. One
issue in Allen was whether the
We hold that LWOP was an authorized punishment for Appellant’s offenses. To resolve the present case, we need not, and do not, address the availability of LWOP for any other offense.
The decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.
1 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998, Pub. L. No. 105-85, § 581, 111 Stat. 1629, 1759 (1997) (codified at 10 U.S.C. § 856a (2000)).
6 The 2000 Manual incorporated the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000’s UCMJ amendments and Executive Order 13,140’s amendments to the Manual. 2000 Manual at Preface. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, which is not relevant to this appeal, was enacted on
7 See Schick v. Reed, 419