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Law School Case Brief

O'Callahan v. Parker - 395 U.S. 258, 89 S. Ct. 1683 (1969)


A court-martial, held under the Articles of War, 10 U.S.C.S. § 801 et seq., does not have jurisdiction to try a member of the armed forces who is charged with commission of a crime cognizable in a civilian court and having no military significance, alleged to have been committed off-post and while on leave, thus depriving him of his constitutional rights to indictment by a grand jury and trial by a petit jury in a civilian court.


Petitioner O'Callahan, a sergeant in the United States Army stationed at Fort Shafter in Hawaii, broke into a girl's hotel room and assaulted and attempted to rape her. At the time, O'Callahan was on an evening pass and dressed in civilian clothes. He was apprehended by a hotel security officer who delivered him to the Honolulu City police for questioning, and after determining that he was a member of the Armed Forces, the city police delivered him to the military police. Following extensive interrogation, he confessed, and he was then charged with attempted rape, housebreaking, and assault with intent to rape, in violation of Articles 80, 130, and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was tried and convicted by court-martial on all counts. His conviction was affirmed by the Army Board of Review, and subsequently, by the United States Court of Military Appeals. While under confinement at a federal prison in Pennsylvania pursuant to the sentence received in his court-martial, he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus against respondent Parker, the Warden of the prison, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. O'Callahan alleged, inter alia, that the court-martial was without jurisdiction to try him for nonmilitary offenses committed off-post while on an evening pass. The district court denied relief without considering the issue on the merits, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed.


Did the court-martial have jurisdiction to try O'Callahan for nonmilitary offenses he committed off-post?




The Supreme Court of the United States held that the court-martial had no jurisdiction to try the O'Callahan for the crimes in question, which were not service connected and were committed off-post and while on an evening pass. The Court noted that the constitution afforded benefit of indictment by a grand jury and trial by jury before a civilian court in cases that did not arise in the land or naval forces actively serving in time of war. The Court found nothing in the history or constitutional treatment of military tribunals affording them the same ability as U.S. Const. art. III courts to determine the guilt or innocence of people charged with offenses for which they could be deprived of life, liberty, or property. The Court averred that a military tribunal was not capable of upholding O'Callahan's constitutional rights, but was designed to preserve military discipline. Since the crime was not service-connected and did not implicate military authority or security, the Court concluded that O'Callahan was entitled to trial in civilian court.

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