"A Few Good Men" question - SPOILER

Don’t mouse over this thread if you don’t want to risk being spoiled.

I warned you.
OK, so in the movie (and I assume also the play) Dawson and Downey are ordered by a Kendrick to give Santiago a Code Red. I don’t remember if Dawson and Downey knew that there had been a memo issued advising that Code Reds were not to be done, which probably makes a difference. Anyway, at their court-martial Jessup admits to ordering Kendrick to order the Code Red and Kendrick ordered Dawson to have himself and Downey to carry it out. Dawson and Downey are acquitted of murder and conspiracy but convicted of conduct unbecoming Marines.

Is this a reasonable verdict based on the information presented in the film? The two men seem like they’re fucked either way. If they carry our the order they’re fucked, if they refuse the order they’re fucked. If they seek confirmation of the order from higher up the chain of command, Jessup confirms the order and they’re still fucked. Do they have any out that isn’t going to result in a conviction?

An illegal order is still an illegal order. It doesn’t matter who in your chain of command gives it.

No, I think they were pretty well screwed either way. Dawson learned after the “Curtis Bell incident” not to disobey Kendrick. But looking at the big picture, their convictions will make it easier to go after Jessup and Kendrick.

Does an individual Marine have the power to decide that a particular order is illegal?

Yes. But he’d better be right.