Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748, 4 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 748 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

The case before us concerns the authority of the President, in our system of separated powers, to prescribe aggravating factors that permit a court-martial to impose the death penalty upon a member of the Armed Forces convicted of murder.


On December 12, 1988, petitioner Dwight Loving, an Army private stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, murdered two taxicab drivers from the nearby town of Killeen. He attempted to murder a third, but the driver disarmed him and escaped. Civilian and Army authorities arrested Loving the next afternoon. He confessed.

After a trial, an eight-member general court-martial found Loving guilty of, among other offenses, premeditated murder and felony murder under Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U. S. C. 918(1), (4). In the sentencing phase of the trial, the court-martial found three aggravating factors: (1) that the premeditated murder of the second driver was committed during the course of a robbery, Rule for Courts-Martial (RCM) 1004(c)(7)(B); (2) that Loving acted as the triggerman in the felony murder of the first driver, RCM 1004(c)(8); and (3) that Loving, having been found guilty of the premeditated murder, had committed a second murder, also proved at the single trial, RCM 1004(c)(7)(J). The court-martial sentenced Loving to death. The commander who convened the court-martial approved the findings and sentence. Cf. 10 U. S. C. 860. The United States Army Court of Military Review and the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (formerly the United States Court of Military Appeals (CMA)) affirmed, 41 M. J. 213 (1994), relying on United States v. Curtis, 32 M. J.

Navy-Marine Corps Appellate Defense Division by John Francis Havranek, Howard Barry Goodman, and Phillip Del Grissom; and for Marci A. Hamilton et al. by David Schoenbrod, pro se.


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