If a court martial sentence includes a sentence of death, confinement for one year or more, a punitive discharge such as a dishonorable discharge, bad conduct discharge or dismissal, then the case is automatically reviewed by the accused service’s court of criminal appeals. Each branch of the military service has its own court of criminal appeals comprised of appellate military judges.
The judges may be commissioned military officers or civilian attorneys, all of whom must be licensed lawyers in good standing with their bar. The court of criminal appeals has the power to correct legal errors and reduce excessive sentences. The court may make findings of law and facts in reviewing the record, unlike civilian appellant courts that generally only make findings of law.1
The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) oversees the military justice system and is comprised of five civilian judges appointed to serve 15-year terms. Court of criminal appeals’ decisions are subject to review by CAAF.2 Service members also may petition the United States Supreme Court to review their case. CAAF decisions are subject to review by the Supreme Court.
After a court martial is concluded, the accused may submit a request for clemency to the convening authority. The accused may present evidence to in mitigation and extenuation. The convening authority may suspend or dismiss a part of or the entire sentence. As part of clemency, the convening authorities often suspends the forfeiture of pay and directs that it be paid to the service member’s family.