United States v. Calley

22 U.S.C.M.A. 534 (1973)

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United States v. Calley

United States Court of Military Appeals
22 U.S.C.M.A. 534 (1973)

Facts

During the Vietnam War, United States Army troops captured the civilian village of My Lai, which consisted mostly of old men, women, and children. The United States troops proceeded to rape several of the civilian women and girls and executed the entire village, including infants. Lieutenant William Calley (defendant) was present in the village and allegedly ordered and participated in numerous killings. Calley was charged with murder, and he raised the defense of superior orders. Specifically, Calley claimed that he was following an order from his superior to execute everyone in the village, including children. Calley testified that he believed that the order was lawful because (1) the villagers had supposedly been helping the enemy, (2) leaving villagers alive could jeopardize the lives of the United States troops, and (3) having prisoners would prevent the troops from being able to move to a necessary position quickly. The military judge instructed the members of the court-martial that the defense of superior orders did not apply if Calley either (1) knew that the order was unlawful or (2) should have known that the order was unlawful because a man of ordinary sense and understanding would have known that it was unlawful. Calley was convicted and appealed. The Army Court of Military Review affirmed the conviction. Calley appealed to the United States Court of Military Appeals, arguing that the military judge had used the wrong standard to determine whether Calley should have known that the order was unlawful.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Quinn, J.)

Dissent (Darden, C.J.)

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