15 Movies and Documentaries That Expose the Broken Military Justice System

A Few Good Men (Sony Pictures):

Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is a military lawyer defending two U.S. Marines charged with killing a fellow Marine at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Although Kaffee is known for seeking plea bargains, a fellow lawyer, Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore), convinces him that the accused marines were most likely carrying out an order from a commanding officer. Kaffee takes a risk by calling Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) to the stand in an effort to uncover the conspiracy. -A Few Good Men, Sony Pictures Entertainment (December 9, 1992)

About | A Few Good Men | Sony Pictures Entertainment (Drama)

Soldier’s Girl (Showtime):

New Army recruit Barry Winchell is assigned to a base in Tennessee. One night out to a local bar hosting a drag show. Calpernia Addams an in-transition transsexual drag queen, fascinates Barry, and they strike up a relationship. -Soldier’s Girl, Showtime (January 20, 2003)

Showtime Entertainment Released ‘Soldier’s Girl’: Based on the True Story of the Murder of Fort Campbell Army Pfc. Barry Winchell

In the Valley of Elah (Warner Bros):

“In the Valley of Elah” tells the story of a war veteran (Tommy Lee Jones), his wife (Susan Sarandon) and the search for their son, a soldier who recently returned from Iraq but has mysteriously gone missing, and the police detective (Charlize Theron) who helps in the investigation. -Warner Bros. (September 14, 2007)

Warner Bros. Premiered ‘In the Valley of Elah’: Based on the True Story of the Murder of Fort Benning Army Spc. Richard T. Davis

The Tillman Story (The Weinstein Company):

Pat Tillman never thought of himself as a hero. His choice to leave a multimillion-dollar football contract and join the military wasn’t done for any reason other than he felt it was the right thing to do. The fact that the military manipulated his tragic death in the line of duty into a propaganda tool is unfathomable and thoroughly explored in Amir Bar-Lev’s riveting and enraging documentary. -The Tillman Story (August 20, 2010)

The NFL, the MilItary, and the Hijacking of Pat Tillman’s Story

The Wounded Platoon (Frontline PBS):

The Wounded Platoon

Since the Iraq War began, soldier arrests in the city of Colorado Springs have tripled. FRONTLINE tells the dark tale of the men of 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st battalion of the 506th infantry, and how the war followed them home. It is a story of heroism, grief, vicious combat, depression, drugs, alcohol and brutal murder; an investigation into the Army’s mental health services; and a powerful portrait of what multiple tours and post-traumatic stress are doing to a generation of young American soldiers. –The Wounded Platoon (May 18, 2010)

Frontline PBS: The Wounded Platoon Documentary [Full Episode]

On the Dark Side of Al Doura (Maverick Media):

U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow soldiers in Al Doura, Iraq. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which, in the public interest, are now released in this video. John paid a terrible price for his opposition to these acts. His story is tragic. –On the Dark Side in Al Doura (2011)

On the Dark Side in Al Doura (Iraq): Documentary Gives You an Inside Look at Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Army

The Invisible War (Cinedigm):

The Invisible War is a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of our country’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within our US military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire with the number of assaults in the last decade alone in the hundreds of thousands. -The Invisible War (June 22, 2012)

Military Rape Documentary Funded and Distributed by “Serial Predator” and Hollywood Movie Executive Harvey Weinstein

Women of War Documentary (Sundance Films):

Military Sexual Trauma or M.S.T. has been a fixture in the military for as long as human war has existed, and is still quite prevalent even in today’s modern military. This feature length documentary uncovers the origins and offers solutions to M.S.T. -Women of War Documentary (February 4, 2013)

Women of War Documentary, Phil Valentine [Full Episode]

The Frozen Ground (Grindstone):

“The Frozen Ground” is inspired by the incredible true story that follows Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) as he sets out to end the murderous rampage of Robert Hansen (John Cusack), a serial killer who has gone unnoticed for 13 years. As the bodies of street girls start to pile up in Anchorage, fear strikes a chord with the public. -The Frozen Ground (August 23, 2013)

Serial Killer & Army Reserve Veteran Robert C. Hansen Died of Natural Causes While Serving Out a Life Sentence in Alaska State Prison

The Silent Truth (Midtown Films):

Ninety-four US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). ‘The Silent Truth’ tells the story of one of these women, PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson, who was found dead on Balad Air Force Base in Iraq. The army claimed she shot herself with her own M16 rifle, but forensic evidence, obtained by the Johnson family through the Freedom of Information Act, brings the army’s findings into question. The Army refuses to re-open LaVena Johnson’s case, leaving the family in limbo. ‘The Silent Truth’ follows the Johnson’s pursuit of justice and truth for their daughter. -The Silent Truth Documentary (July 1, 2014)

‘The Silent Truth’ Documentary: The Rape, Murder & Military Cover-Up of Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson in Iraq

The Kill Team (PBS Independent Lens):

The Kill Team looks at the devastating moral tensions that tear at soldiers’ psyches through the lens of one highly personal and emotional story. Private Adam Winfield was a 21-year-old soldier in Afghanistan when he attempted with the help of his father to alert the military to heinous war crimes his platoon was committing. But Winfield’s pleas went unheeded. Left on his own and with threats to his life, Private Winfield was himself drawn into the moral abyss, forced to make a split-second decision that would change his life forever. -The Kill Team, (July 25, 2014)

The PBS Documentary ‘The Kill Team’ Reveals How the Military Justice System Operates in Response to Media Scandals

Gangs in the U.S. Army (A&E Television):

Sworn to protect us from every enemy, foreign and domestic, and every day the majority of soldiers do just that ! yet some units are being compromised and turn into street gangs. An FBI report recently showed an increased gang activity within US soldiers. -Gangs in the U.S. Army Documentary (2017)

Gangs in the Military: Armed and Dangerous Forces

The Kill Team (A24):

When a young US soldier in Afghanistan witnesses other recruits killing civilians under the direction of a sadistic sergeant, he begins to fear that the men he’s serving with might be the ones to kill him. -The Kill Team (October 25, 2019)

‘The Kill Team’ Movie Released: Based on the True Story of Army Whistleblower Adam Winfield

Leavenworth (STARZ):

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and executive producers Paul Pawlowski and David Check tell the story of First Lieutenant Clint Lorance. Watch the Official Trailer for the upcoming STARZ Original Docuseries, Leavenworth, premiering October 20 on the STARZ App. (August 28, 2019)

STARZ Premiered ‘Leavenworth’: Docu-Series Examines Army 1st Lieutenant Clint Lorance Afghanistan ‘War Crimes’ Case

Ready for War (Showtime):

Andrew Renzi sheds light on the lives of three of the estimated thousands of immigrants who volunteer for service in the American military, yet find themselves deported from the US once their tours of duty are over. -Ready for War, Showtime (November 22, 2019)

The ultimate threat for deported U.S. veterans? Drug cartels, new documentary says

STARZ Premiered ‘Leavenworth’: Docu-Series Examines Army 1st Lieutenant Clint Lorance Afghanistan ‘War Crimes’ Case (October 20, 2019)

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and executive producers Paul Pawlowski and David Check tell the story of First Lieutenant Clint Lorance. Watch the Official Trailer for the upcoming STARZ Original Docuseries, Leavenworth, premiering October 20 on the STARZ App. (August 28, 2019)

STARZ Overview of ‘Leavenworth’: “From executive producers Paul Pawlowski, David Check and Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh comes a controversial true-crime story that plays out in the military justice system. Clint Lorance is serving a 19-year sentence for murder at the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth. While deployed in Afghanistan in July 2012, the former lieutenant ordered fire on three local men riding a motorcycle, killing two of them and outraging his platoon. In a firsthand account of a soldier navigating the U.S. Army’s legal system, Lorance seeks to overturn his conviction, which provokes an emotional debate between supporters and detractors that rises to the national stage. As determinations on Lorance’s fate unfold, questions probe not only the merits of his conviction but analyze the system at large, and they ultimately test the balance of guilt and innocence in the inscrutable circumstances of today’s wars.”

In the News:

A New Docu-Series Follows a Controversial True Story Playing Out in the Military Justice System. -Fox 4 Now (October 22, 2019)

Jamie Lorance, Clint’s cousin, and Don Brown, lead attorney on the Lorance legal team, call on President Trump to release Clint Lorance from his 19-year prison sentence. -Fox and Friends (October 27, 2019)

Related Links:
Free Clint Lorance (website)
Leavenworth | STARZ Media Room
Leavenworth | Official Trailer | STARZ
Leavenworth | Fox 4 Now
Updates on Army LT Clint Lorance’s Case – Fox and Friends
‘Leavenworth’: TV Review | Hollywood Reporter
Review: ‘Leavenworth’ Puts the Army on Trial | New York Times
‘Leavenworth’ Trailer: Steven Soderbergh’s Starz Doc Tells a True Crime Military Story
Steven Soderbergh To Exec Produce True-Crime Military Justice Docu-Series ‘Leavenworth’ For Starz | Deadline
A new documentary series about Clint Lorance pits the infantry officer convicted of murder against his former soldiers
‘Strongly Recommend My Kids Not Put A Uniform On’: Former Soldier Mike McGuinness, Director Paul Pawlowski Discuss ‘Leavenworth’ Docu-Series, Clint Lorance Case
Ex-Army soldier in Leavenworth prison asks Kansas judge to vacate murder conviction
Ex-Soldier in Leavenworth Prison Asks Kansas Judge to Vacate Murder Conviction
Army Lt. Clint Lorance feels 19-year prison sentence is ‘just another mission’: docuseries producers

Crimelines True Crime Podcast w/ Death’s Door Podcast Featured the Last Military Execution of Army Private John Bennett in 1961 (April 22, 2018)

“In 1961, the US military carried out the last execution after a court-martial, as of the time of this recording. Army Pvt John Bennett’s conviction was for the rape and attempted murder of an 11 year girl in Austria. This case brought up questions of race in our military justice system and if mental health should factor into sentencing.” –Army Private John Bennett w/ Death’s Door, Crimelines True Crime Podcast (April 22, 2018)

Related Links:
Civil Rights Act of 1964
No Military Executions Since 1961
Crimelines True Crime Podcast (website)
Crimelines True Crime Podcast (Facebook)
Crimelines True Crime Podcast (Twitter)
Army Private John Bennett w/ Death’s Door | Crimelines Podcast | Stitcher
Army Private John Bennett w/ Death’s Door | Crimelines Podcast | Podtail
Army Private John Bennett w/ Death’s Door | Crimelines Podcast | Radio Public
Army Private John Bennett w/ Death’s Door | Crimelines Podcast | Apple Podcasts
Four U.S. Service Members on Military Death Row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Army Private John Bennett was Last Military Execution by Hanging in 1961
Six Intriguing True Crime Podcasts Spotlighting Active Duty Military Suicide, Missing, and Murder Cases
Pvt. John Bennett Is the Only U.S. Soldier Executed for Rape in Peacetime.
A look at the last U.S. soldier executed by the military
U.S. Military Could Execute Ex-Soldier for First Time Since 1961
Haunted by the Story of John Bennett and Other Black Soldiers’ Lives on Death Row
Soldiers Sentenced to Die, but No Executions on Military Death Row Since 1961
These are the 4 inmates on the military’s death row
Death’s Door Podcast (website)
Death’s Door Podcast (Facebook)
Death’s Door Podcast (Twitter)

Vox: The War in Congress Over Rape in the Military, Explained (June 8, 2016)

By Emily Crockett

Sexual assault is a huge problem in the US military. And for many victims, the process of reporting their crime and seeking justice can be as traumatic as their assault.

Most members of Congress and military officials agree that these basic facts are true, and that more reforms to the military justice system could help. But there’s a profound disagreement on how, and how much, the system needs to change.

The US Senate is expected to vote this week on the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). Advocates, who have been pushing for the MJIA since 2013, say the reform would make the process of prosecuting sex crimes a lot easier and smoother for victims and help victims feel more empowered to come forward and report the crimes against them.

An unusual bipartisan cadre of senators support the MJIA, from Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz. But the Pentagon adamantly opposes it, and many senators listen to the Pentagon when it says the MJIA would undermine “good order and discipline.” So there’s still no filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority for the measure, and it’s been defeated every year it’s come up.”

Read more here: The war in Congress over rape in the military, explained

Related Links:
Fort Hood Army Staff Sgt. Paul Norris Fatally Shot Spc. Kamisha Block in Murder-Suicide in Iraq; Family Calls for Congressional Hearings & Independent Investigations (August 16, 2007)
Camp Lejeune Marine Maria Lauterbach & Unborn Child Murdered, Remains Discovered in Marine’s Backyard; Cesar Laurean Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole (December 15, 2007)
HOR Oversight Subcommittee on National Security & Foreign Affairs Held a Hearing on Sexual Assault in the Military (July 31, 2008)
Former Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) Introduced the Holley Lynn James Act (April 12, 2011)
Lauterbach Case Prompts Policy Reforms for Victims of Sexual Assault in the Military (December 25, 2011)
Air Force TSgt. Jennifer Norris Testified Before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington DC (January 23, 2013)
Stars and Stripes: ‘White House, Congress bear down on military sexual assault’ (May 16, 2013)
S. 967: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 – U.S. Senate Voting Record (March 6, 2014)
Army Pfc. Shadow McClaine Reported Missing at Fort Campbell; Ex-Husband Sgt. Jamal Williams-McCray & Spc. Charles Robinson Pleaded Guilty to Murder (September 2, 2016)
Army Pvt. Nicole Burnham Found Unresponsive in Fort Carson Barracks; Death Ruled Suicide After Sexual Assault, Retaliation & a Three Month Expedited Transfer Delay (January 26, 2018)
Rep. Mike Turner Says New Military Legislation Closes a Loophole & Includes Domestic Violence Victims in the Expedited Transfer Policy Law (May 1, 2018)
Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)
House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Hearings on Domestic Violence in the Military (September 18, 2019)
Rep. Seth Moulton Introduces The Brandon Act to Change DoD Mental Health Policy, Pay Tribute to Fallen Navy Sailor Brandon Caserta (June 25, 2020)
Open Letter to House of Representatives in Support of an Independent Investigation of the Murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood (July 7, 2020)

Army Pvt. John Bennett Executed by Hanging at U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth for Raping White Girl in Austria (April 13, 1961)

Photo by Shane Aldendorff on Pexels.com

“John Bennett, a black man, was hanged for raping a white girl in Austria. During the six years between his trial and death, eight other soldiers were executed, all of them black. Six white prisoners were on death row during those years. Some had killed little girls or had killed more than once. None were executed. President Dwight Eisenhower commuted the sentences of four. Two were spared by the courts. Today, six soldiers are on military death row–four black, one Asian, one white.” (update: 4 soldiers are on death row now)

Evidence in Bennett’s case revealed mental defects in the young man and his family, defects that today would probably spare his life. He also almost certainly suffered from epilepsy, which his defenders cited as further evidence of mental illness. Even Dr. Karl Menninger, the country’s preeminent psychiatrist, twice sought to save the life of this ‘undistinguished epileptic Negro soldier.The court-martial was held in Austria. The trial lasted five days, with little defense. The jury deliberated just 25 minutes.

Read more from Richard A. Serrano (LA Timeshere or here and check out Serrano’s book ‘Summoned at Midnight: A Story of Race and the Last Military Executions at Fort Leavenworth’ here.

Related Links:
Pvt John Arthur Bennett (April 13, 1961)
Pvt. John Bennett is the Only U.S. Soldier Executed for Rape in Peacetime
Pvt. John Bennett Is the Only U.S. Soldier Executed for Rape in Peacetime
Bush OKs Execution for Army Private on Death Row 
1961: John A. Bennett, the last American military execution (so far)
The Rare Case Of The Military Execution 
A look at the last U.S. soldier executed by the military 
Soldiers Sentenced to Die, but No Executions on Military Death Row Since 1961 
A look at the 6 inmates on US military death row
Servicemen on Death Row; 6 killers await as mil­i­tary jus­tice crawls
Judge lifts execution stay for ex-soldier in military prison
U.S. Military Could Execute Ex-Soldier for First Time Since 1961 
Army moves closer to first execution in 50 years; Ronald Gray on death row since 1988 
These are the 4 inmates on the military’s death row 
Haunted by the Story of John Bennett and Other Black Soldiers’ Lives on Death Row
Resuming federal executions unlikely to affect military death row
Summoned at Midnight: A Story of Race and the Last Military Executions at Fort Leavenworth 
Crimelines True Crime Podcast w/ Death’s Door Podcast Featured the Last Military Execution of Army Private John Bennett in 1961 (April 22, 2018)
Four U.S. Service Members on Military Death Row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Army Private John Bennett was Last Military Execution by Hanging in 1961
Seven Intriguing True Crime Podcasts Spotlighting Active Duty Military Suicide, Missing, and Murder Cases