Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748, 5 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

252 (CMA), cert. denied, 502 U. S. 952 (1991), to reject Loving's claims that the President lacked authority to promulgate the aggravating factors that enabled the court-martial to sentence him to death. We granted certiorari. 515 U. S. 1191 (1995).


Although American courts-martial from their inception have had the power to decree capital punishment, they have not long had the authority to try and to sentence members of the Armed Forces for capital murder committed in the United States in peacetime. In the early days of the Republic the powers of courts-martial were fixed in the Articles of War. Congress enacted the first Articles in 1789 by adopting in full the Articles promulgated in 1775 (and revised in 1776) by the Continental Congress. Act of Sept. 29, 1789, ch. 25, 4, 1 Stat. 96. (Congress reenacted the Articles in 1790 "as far as the same may be applicable to the constitution of the United States," Act of Apr. 30, 1790, ch. 10, 13, 1 Stat. 121.) The Articles adopted by the First Congress placed significant restrictions on court-martial jurisdiction over capital offenses. Although the death penalty was authorized for 14 military offenses, American Articles of War of 1776, reprinted in W. Winthrop, Military Law and Precedents 961 (reprint 2d ed. 1920) (hereinafter Winthrop); Comment, Rocks and Shoals in a Sea of Otherwise Deep Commitment: General Court-Martial Size and Voting Requirements, 35 Nav. L. Rev. 153, 156-158 (1986), the Articles followed the British example of ensuring the supremacy of civil court jurisdiction over ordinary capital crimes that were punishable by the law of the land and were not special military offenses. 1776 Articles, 10, Art. 1, reprinted in Winthrop 964 (requiring commanders, upon application, to exert utmost effort to turn offender over to civil authorities). Cf. British Articles of War of 1765, 11, Art. 1, reprinted in Winthrop 937 (same). That provision was deemed protection enough for soldiers, and in 1806 Congress debated and re-

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