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Reid v. Covert

United States Supreme Court
354 U.S. 1 (1957)



Executive agreements between the United States and Great Britain, and the United States and Japan, permitted U.S. military courts to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over offenses committed in those countries by American servicemen or their dependents. Clarice Covert (defendant), the wife of a U.S. Air Force sergeant, killed her husband at an airbase in England. Dorothy Smith (defendant), the wife of another U.S. serviceman, killed her husband in Japan. Pursuant to the executive agreements, both women were tried and convicted without a jury trial or the traditional protections of the Bill of Rights by U.S. court-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in Great Britain and Japan, respectively. Covert petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that her conviction violated her Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to trial by jury. The district court granted the petition, ordering Covert’s release, and the government appealed. Covert’s appeal was consolidated with a similar one by Smith, whom the district court had ruled against.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Black, J.)

Concurrence (Harlan, J.)

Dissent (Clark, J.)

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