"A Few Good Men" Would Jessup's charge stick?

I just watched the movie tonight. After the climactic scene in which Jessup admitted to the code red order under oath and he was arrested I was wondering:

[li]Would Caffey conceivably get assigned to defend Jessup?[/li][li]For a man of Jessup’s rank and political pull is there any way he could manage to get off the hook?[/li][/ul]

I guess I’m asking if there would be a way to legitimately/successfully argue that his testimony in the trial of Lowden and Downey is not enough evidence to get him convicted of issuing an illegal order?

I’m sure it would be enough to get him convicted of perjury but i can’t recall him ever stating explicitly that he didn’t give the order. My memory may be faulty though.

no. I don’t know UCMJ stuff, but that’s a gigantic conflict of interest (that Jessup would conceivably not care to waive) IMHO.

sure. but it’s hard to do when you get caught in your oral testimony. (the following have come from unsubstantiated reviews, or it may have been more expounded upon in Sorkin’s play) The movie didn’t do a good job of the conspiracy to keep this secret part. I believe Kaffee was specifically assigned (remember, he was assigned by division) precisely because he was their best shot at getting the Defendants to plea bargain and keep the Officers’ involvement under wraps, because Jessup’s star was on the rise and no one wanted this gumming up the works. Then he had to go and get the hots for a nosy chick.

if i recall the movie correctly, he outright admitted it. That, coupled with Louden and Downey’s testimony that they were told to do X would be sufficient, if you ask me, to convict Jessup. Would be enough to bust Lt. Jack Bauer, too.

when asked “did you order the code red” he replied “you’re goddamn right I did” that’s pretty explicit. after denying it multiple times prior, If i remember correctly.

Thanks for the reply.

For context, I was thinking after the scene, “you’re going away for all days old man” but after a second I thought, “but wait, he’ll just hire some “johnny cochrane” or “dershowitz” and get off”
and was wondering if my second thought was valid.

A typical disposition of such a case is to force Jessup into early retirement in exchange for no Courts Martial. Usually a pretty sweet deal for the accused, all things considered. Career ended, but a terrific pension and nothing preventing him from entering another civilian business while drawing the pension. And full military benefits (medical, PX, commissary, etc.).

“You want answers?”

“I think I’m entitled.”

“You want answers?”

“I want the truth!”

"You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it- you? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know- that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, though grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

You don’t want the truth because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor inclination do defend myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said ‘thank you’, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand at post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!"

“Did you order the code red?”

“I did the job I was- -”


-from memory, thankyouverymuch.

Yes, Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland) will be in a world of hurt too. At the end of the movie, Kevin Bacon says he’s on his way to arrest him as well.

Of course, you have to wonder if the way they caught Downey lying on the stand will come up in the new trial as well - IIRC, he originally claimed he was in the room when Kendrick ordered them to give Santiago a code red, but later had to admit he wasn’t because the jeep that picks them up from guard duty had a flat tire.

BTW, it was Dawson & Downey on trial. Louden is Downey’s first name.

It’s highly doubtful that Caffey would be assigned to defend Col. Jessup. In the Army, defense counsel have a separate chain of command from the rest of the JAGs, and Caffey was acting as a prosecutor. (I can’t speak for the Navy, but it’s probable that they have the same structure.) There is also a huge conflict of interest problem.

Again, I am only speaking from an Army perspective, but assuming that Navy Regs are similar, if I were advising Col. Jessup, I would have him put in a “Retirement for the Good of the Service” immediately. If things progressed, I would have hime request a “Retirement in Lieu of Courts Martial”. Unless the investigation yielded a pattern and practice of this kind of abuse, I suspect Col. Jessup would either retire (either at current rank or a lower rank, depending on the deal) or be chaptered out of the USMC with a General Discharge.

The charge would stick. It would’ve been too high profile not to stick. The biggest issue with being convicted of even only that lovely catch-all “conduct unbecoming” is that you give up not only your rank and pension (which would be a big hit as a Colonel), but you have to pay back what you were paid during the trial, because you are guilty.

Kaffee (Tom Cruise) was a defense attorney - he was defending Dawson & Downey. Ross (Kevin Bacon) was the prosecutor in the case.

Sorry–wasn’t thinking–his questioning of Col. Jessup was atypical of a defense attorney. I think I need to rewatch that movie–though entertaining, it’s not a true life portrayal of military legal proceedings.

Followup question:

Could Jessup retain Alan Dershowitz for his defense at a military courts marshall?

Would he be well advised to? (Hiring a civillian rather than military counsel…)

You are allowed to hire a civilian defense attorney (at your own expense) in a military court martial. There are even some ex-JAGs who specialize in it. Otherwise, you get the JAG guy assigned to you.

They would have also nailed him on an obstruction of justice charge since it would have come to light that he was behind the doctored flight log from the other base (Andrews? -if memory properly serves?)

Here’s the thing that I’ve always wondered:

A lot of of the drama in the movie comes from the statement made by Ross that Kaffee would be risking his own court martial for claiming that Dawson and Downey were acting under orders since by doing so he’d be accusing Jessep and Kendrick of comitting a crime without proof. That always struck me as a bit of a stretch, but I’m also aware that there are a lot of rules covering lawyers’ behavior in court that seem odd to the layperson. Can one of the experts in military law that are reading this thread comment on this? Was Kaffee really at risk? Or was that idea simply made up by Sorkin to create the conflict?

yeah, this one never sat well with me…

yes, (non-military) attorneys are bound by rules of professional conduct, but no where in the rules (that I’m aware of) are you not allowed to suggest/accuse someone else at your client’s trial of being the actual perpetrator of the crime your client is on trial for. now, you can’t suborn perjury (so you can’t put someone on the stand who you know will lie) but in terms of the “no, this is the guy that did it” approach, you’re fine. (no comment on whether that’s a good tactic)

so, you’re either allowed to do it and Sorkin just made up the threat to Kaffee, or the UCMJ has some really fucked up provisions that severely cripple a defense attorney’s ability to provide a competent defense (it may have been in a JAG episode, too - I believe they claimed that a non-military lawyer in a military trial could be punished in the same way as Kaffee)

then again, based on what we see coming out of these military tribunals at Gitmo, this may not be entirely surprising.

Can I hijack this just a bit, and back up 3 minutes screentime?

  • Ever put your life in another man’s hands, and his in yours? We follow orders, son. Otherwise people die. It’s that simple. Are we clear? Are we clear?
  • Crystal.
  • One last question, before I call Airmen O’Malley and Rodriguez. If you ordered that - Santiago wasn’t to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why was - Santiago in danger? Why would it be necessary to transfer him off the base?
  • He was a substandard Marine. He was being transferred…
  • You said he was transferred because he was in danger. I said, “grave danger?” and you said… we can read it…
  • I know what I said!
  • Then why the two orders?
  • Men can do things on their own.
  • But your men never did.
  • Your men obey orders. So Santiago wasn’t in danger, right?

- I thought that maybe Dawson and/or Downey were not honorable so I wanted Santiago out of there. Put simply Lt Caffee, I said that my men follow orders or people die, well that’s exactly what happened. Those two did not follow orders and someone died. Now I’m going to go see my sister. BEEYATCH!

Now maybe I wrote it a little flowery but the basic argument still kinda stands, We follow orders or people die, and a man is dead. That seems to wrap up the charges doesn’t it?

FYI, I got the script from here.

Linus, you missed a little of the point. What Jack warned Kaffee about was directly accusing an officer of a crime during examination. To make the accusation, if it were false, would be a criminal offense for which he could be charged.

Think of it kind of like making a false claim to the police.

I can’t imagine that Caffey would get assigned to defend Jessup; the conflicts are obvious. I also don’t think Caffey gave a good goddamn what happened to the colonel, so long as Dawson & Downing didn’t go to prison. Jessup getting shitcanned would be, at most, gravy.

As for the rest of it, I imagine that Jessup was more likely to be forced to retire than to serve any jail time.

How much military law is covered in law school? It seems like some of it is so specialized they may not cover much of it.

I’m sure there are a few schools that offer a course on the UCMJ - it’s not like it’s so specialized that you can’t pick up the framework of it in a semester like any other specialized legal topic

Anyway, the various branches of the armed forces have a JAG school that they send new to-be military lawyers to: it’s in Charlottesville, VA (I believe closely affiliated with UVA’s law school)