Brief filed: 02/19/2020
United States v. Briggs; United States v. Collins; United States v. Daniels
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 19-108 & 19-184
Decisions below from the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF)
First, there must be a specific reason not to apply the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution to servicemembers. As there is no issue of military importance that excludes servicemembers from the protections of the Eighth Amendment, rape of an adult cannot be an “offense punishable by death.” Under the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment, the crime of rape of an adult cannot be punishable by death. Petitioner has not met its burden to provide a military-specific exception for the application of the Eighth Amendment to servicemembers. Here, the Petitioner offers policy prescriptions and “national security” reasons which are insufficient to deprive a service-member of his or her constitutional rights. Further, canons of statutory interpretation require that Article 43 must be read to protect applicable constitutional rights. Specifically, sections in the same statutory scheme should be read in pari materia, or interpreted together. Article 43, at the time of Respondents’ alleged offenses, had no statute of limitations for crimes punishable by death, including rape, but established a five-year limitation otherwise; however, Article 55 prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, mirroring the Eighth Amendment. Applying Supreme Court precedent that precludes death as a punishment for rape of an adult, Article 43 read in conjunction with Article 55 requires that rape was subject to a five-year statute of limitations at the time of the alleged offenses. Lastly, civilian law must inform the interpretation of the UCMJ. The CAAF may not freely disregard Supreme Court precedent without a “legitimate military necessity or distinction.” Therefore, the CAAF’s decision to reverse Respondents’ convictions should be affirmed.
Jeffrey T. Green, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC.