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Court-Martial Jurisdiction over Non-Military Persons under the Articles of War, 4 Minnesota Law Review 79 (1919)

Abstract

On the first of February, 1918, the military authorities apprehended at Nogales, Arizona, a young man travelling under the name of Lathar Witcke, whose real name was Pablo Waberski. He had just crossed the border with two companions, who were, contrary to his belief, secret agents of the American and British Governments respectively. To them he had confided the fact that he was a German spy and was re-entering this country for the purpose of destroying property of military value as well as for the purpose of obtaining information for transmission to the enemy. He was traveling as a Russian but was in fact a subject of the Kaiser. He had on his person a cipher message in the German consular code signed by Von Eckhardt, the German Ambassador to Mexico. Was he triable by a military tribunal or must he be turned over to the civil authorities and be given a trial by jury? The judge advocate general had no difficulty in determining that a military tribunal had jurisdiction. Waberski was accordingly tried for violation of the 82nd Article of War, was found guilty and sentenced to death. It was most strenuously urged by civilian officials high in authority, that Waberski's offense was triable only in the civil courts, and that the president ought not confirm the sentence. On the mistaken supposition that he was a Russian national, it was argued that he was entitled to a jury trial under the constitution. Before the controversy was settled, he most conveniently died a natural death in prison.

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1919

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