United States v. Smith

68 M.J. 316 (2010)

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United States v. Smith

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
68 M.J. 316 (2010)

Facts

Army Sergeant Michael Smith (defendant) handled military working dogs and was stationed at the Abu Ghraib confinement facility in Iraq. According to Smith’s training, military working dogs were supposed to be either kept away from people or muzzled. During the interrogation of a detainee at the facility, Smith allowed his unmuzzled dog to bark in the detainee’s face and pull both a hood and a sandbag off the detainee’s head with its teeth. Smith also independently chose to let his unmuzzled dog bark close to two jailed, juvenile detainees to see whether he could get them to defecate on themselves. Smith was charged with maltreating the interrogated detainee and the two jailed, juvenile detainees. Smith claimed that a colonel had ordered the dog’s use during the interrogation. The colonel denied ordering the use. Even if the colonel had ordered the dog’s use, (1) the colonel had not sought preapproval and, therefore, lacked the legal authority to issue that order and (2) there was no evidence that the alleged order allowed Smith to use the dog in a manner that violated the standard requirement of either distance or a muzzle. The military judge instructed the court members that, for the charge regarding the interrogated detainee only, they could consider the defense that Smith was obeying orders that he reasonably believed were lawful. Smith was convicted and appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Baker, J.)

Concurrence (Effron, C.J.)

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