401 U.S. 355 (1971), 98, Relford v. Commandant, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks,

Docket Nº:No. 98
Citation:401 U.S. 355, 91 S.Ct. 649, 28 L.Ed.2d 102
Party Name:Relford v. Commandant, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks,
Case Date:February 24, 1971
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 355

401 U.S. 355 (1971)

91 S.Ct. 649, 28 L.Ed.2d 102



Commandant, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks,

No. 98

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 24, 1971

Ft. Leavenworth

Argued December 15-16, 1970




Petitioner, then an Army corporal, was convicted in 1961 by a general court-martial for violating Articles 134 and 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice by kidnaping and raping, within the bounds of a military reservation, two women -- one, who was waiting for her serviceman brother who was visiting the base hospital; the other, who was on her way from the home on the base where she lived with her serviceman husband to the post exchange where she worked. In this habeas corpus proceeding, the Court granted certiorari on the issue of the retroactivity and scope of O'Callahan v. Parker, 395 U.S. 258 (1969), which held that a court-martial had no jurisdiction to try a member of the armed forces charged with attempted off-post rape of a civilian and related offenses, since such crimes were not "service-connected."


1. Though some of the factors are present here that the Court relied on for its result in O'Callahan (the offenses were committed in peacetime within this country's territory, did not relate to the accused's military duties, were traditionally cognizable in civilian courts (which were available to try them), and did not directly flout military authority or violate military property), this case significantly differs from O'Callahan in that the crimes there were committed by a serviceman away from his base against a victim who had no connection with the base, whereas here, the crimes were committed on the base against women properly there, one of whom was returning to her work on the base when the attack occurred. Pp. 364-365.

2. An offense committed by a serviceman on a military post that violates the security of a person or of property there is service-connected, and may be tried by a court-martial. Pp. 367-369.

3. The question of O'Callahan's retroactivity is not decided. Pp. 369-370.

409 F.2d 824, affirmed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 356

BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In O'Callahan v. Parker, 395 U.S. 258, decided June 2, 1969, by a five-to-three vote, the Court held that a court-martial may not try a member of our armed forces charged with attempted rape of a civilian, with housebreaking, and with assault with intent to rape, when the alleged offenses were committed off-post on American territory, when the soldier was on leave, and when the charges could have been prosecuted in a civilian court. What is necessary for a court-martial, the Court said, is that the crime be "service-connected." 395 U.S. at 272.

O'Callahan's military trial, of course, was without those constitutional guarantees, including trial by jury, to which he would have been entitled had he been prosecuted in a federal civilian court in the then Territory of Hawaii where the alleged crimes were committed.

O'Callahan already has occasioned a substantial amount of scholarly comment.1 Much of it characterizes the decision as a significant one because it is said to depart from long-established, or at least long-accepted,

Page 357

concepts. Some of the literature is generally approving.2 Some of it is generally critical.3 Some of it, as did the O'Callahan dissent, 395 U.S. at 284, forecasts a period of confusion for both the civil and the military courts.4 Not surprisingly, much of the literature is concerned with the issue of O'Callahan's retrospectivity. Some writers assert that the holding must be applied retroactively.5 Others predict that it will not be so applied.6 Naturally enough, O'Callahan has had its references

Page 358

in the federal courts of appeals7 and in a significant number of cases in the United [91 S.Ct. 652] States Court of Military Appeals.8

Page 359

In the present federal habeas corpus case, instituted several years after the applicant's conviction by court-martial, certiorari was granted "limited to retroactivity

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and scope of O'Callahan v. Parker. . . ." 397 U.S. 934 (1970). We thus do not reconsider O'Callahan. Our task here concerns only its application.


Isiah Relford, in 1961, was a corporal on active duty in the United States [91 S.Ct. 653] Army. He was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

On September 4, 1961, the visiting 14-year-old sister of another serviceman, who was on leave from his Army station at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and who came to Fort Dix when his wife delivered a child at the base hospital, was abducted at the point of a knife from an automobile in the hospital's parking lot as she waited for her brother. The girl was raped by her abductor.

A few weeks later, on October 21, the wife of an Air Force man stationed at McGuire Air Force Base, adjacent to Fort Dix, was driving from her home on the base to the post exchange concession, also on the base, where she worked as a waitress. As the woman slowed her automobile for a stop sign, a man gained entry to the car from the passenger side and, with a knife at her throat, commanded the woman to drive on some distance to a dirt road in the fort's training area. She was raped there.

The second victim, with her assailant still in the automobile, was able to make her predicament known to military police. The assailant was apprehended and turned out to be Relford. He immediately admitted consensual intercourse with the victim. The next morning, after a brief interrogation, he confessed to kidnaping and raping both women.

At the time of each incident, Relford was in civilian clothes.

It is undisputed that these events all took place on the military reservation consisting of Fort Dix and the contiguous McGuire Air Force Base.

Page 361

Relford, in due course, was charged with raping and kidnaping each of the women, in violation of Arts. 120 and 134, respectively, of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. §§ 920 and 934.9 He was tried by a general court-martial in December, 1961, and was convicted on the four charges. Relford's sentence was the forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction to the lowest enlisted grade, and death. The customary reference to the staff judge advocate was made and the convening authority approved. U.C.M.J. Arts. 60-65, 10 U.S.C. §§ 860-865. Upon the review by the Army Board of Review,10 required under the Code's Art. 66, 10 U.S.C. § 866, the conviction was sustained; the sentence, however, was reduced to hard labor for 30 years, total forfeitures, and a dishonorable discharge. The Court of Military Appeals denied a petition for review on September 24, 1963. United States v. Relford, 14 U.S.C.M.A. 678.

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Relford's case thus became final more than five and a half years prior to this Court's decision in O'Callahan v. Parker.

In 1967, Relford, being in custody in the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth, Kansas, filed his application for a writ of habeas corpus with the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. He alleged inadequate [91 S.Ct. 654] representation by counsel in the military proceeding. Chief Judge Stanley found no merit in the claim, and denied the application. On appeal, Relford repeated the inadequate representation claim and, for the first time, raised questions as to the admissibility of his confession, as to a lineup procedure, and as to the fairness of his military trial. The Tenth Circuit reviewed all these claims on the merits, but affirmed the District Court's denial of relief. Relford v. Commandant, 409 F.2d 824 (1969).11

The Tenth Circuit's opinion was filed on April 23, 1969, several weeks prior to this Court's decision in O'Callahan v. Parker. The issue as to the propriety of trial by court-martial, perhaps understandably, was not raised before Judge Stanley or on the appeal to the Tenth Circuit; the issue, however, had been presented in O'Callahan's chronologically earlier appeal in his habeas proceeding. See United States ex rel. O'Callahan v. Parker, 390 F.2d 360, 36364 (CA3 1968).


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