Library - Reading Room

Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

The Priest

WASHINGTON (LINK) - The United States Court of Military Appeals issued an opinion March 13 which upholds the right of a CO (who has no legal training) to overrule a decision of a military judge. The court's decision centered on whether or not the Commandant of the Naval District of Washington applied improper influence on the court martial judge in the case of antiwar sailor Roger Priest. Priest faces court martial on eight charges which stem from statements he made in his GI newspaper called OM.

The court martial proceedings began in July, but were stopped on Dec. 8 when Priest appealed to the highest military court to prevent his trial on two of the charges which were orginally [sic] dismissed by the judge but later reinstated after the convening authority, Rear Adm. George P. Koch, ordered the judge to reconsider his previous decision. Priest's lawyers charged that the admiral's action was a “gross usurpation of the authority of the military judge, an unpardonable interference in the course of the proceedings and a denial of due process of law.” Although the court’s decision refutes the defense position, it did acknowledge that “certain anomalies in military practice exist in comparison with the procedures in the Federal civilian courts, but,” says the court; “a differance [sic] of procedure is not tantamount to a due process defect.”

“The court's decision,” said the Texas sailor, “deals a blow to justice by upholding the right of command influence. Their decision simply supports my view that the court martial system is not a system of justice, but merely an instrument of military dis- cipline.”

Some futher [sic] pre-trial matters must still be dealt with before the actual court martial gets underway. If there are no further charges at that time, Priest will stand trial on eight specifications that OM “contained statements disloyal to the United States,” and “statements advising and urging insubordination, disloyalty, and refusal of duty by members of the military and naval forces of the United States.” If found guilty of this crime of “free speech,” Priest' could receive a dishonorable discharge and up to 39 years in jail. The trial has been set for April 14.


Left Face, no. 5


© 2005 Displaced Films. All Rights Reserved