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Here is an iconic dialogue from the movie "A Few Good Men"

Lt. Kafee: Did you order the CODE RED?

My question is whether the evidence against Colonel Nathan Jessup was sufficient and compact to prosecute him and acquit the two marines?

During the course of the hearing, it is sufficiently proved that "Code Red" is an unofficial disciplinary action conducted at Gitmo. So Col. Jessup says he ordered it.
In the confrontation between Kaffee and Jessup leading up to the above dialogue, Jessup froth about the rigid chain of command within the Armed Forces with "We follow orders or PEOPLE DIE". That a Marine officer will not & cannot ignore his superiors orders under any circumstances.
In the movie, the court takes this bit of information(i will not call this confession) and combines it with Code Red confession in order to prosecute Jessup. The Code Red practice is confirmed by many witnesses, but this "rigid chain of command" is not proved or endorsed by anybody other than Jessup. So it must stand as his interpretation that a superiors officers orders will never be ignored & will always be followed and not a fact and therefore not a confession.

So even though I as a viewer in a theater want to "Punch in the face" Jack Nicholson for his amazing portrayal of Colonel Nathan Jessup, how can an unbiased court in the film prosecute him with the evidence at hand.

Also, Code Red doesnt mean an order to kill

Also, what kind of punishment was he likely to get after his conviction?

I am not looking for opinionated answers but plot explanations/inconsistencies/holes if any.

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As a retired Marine Major I can tell you that in the "practical" and "actual" sense, nothing would be done against him. It may seem unfair but the Corp has a long history of internal discipline, so that means anything that comes will appear as nothing more than a slap on the wrist to the outsiders anyway. But realistically, internally he will probably be praised and instructed to not get caught in the future. That is not to say they condone people getting killed but being hurt is par for the course, we make warriors and if you can't take it, you shouldn't be there. Enemy isn't blowing kisses. – GµårÐïåñ Feb 26 '14 at 17:13
The infraction was the cautionary message from the NIS that the "practice of enlisted disciplining their own" was not to be tolerated. IIRC, his quote was "However, the directive having come from the NIS, I gave it its due attention". Ignoring the directive was the infraction, no matter what they actually called it. – JohnP Feb 26 '14 at 22:52

I may be misremembering the ending of the movie, but I'm pretty sure that there is no reference at all to Jessup being prosecuted. He is arrested by military police, as a confession like that would be grounds for an arrest. But the movie does not portray any sort of prosecution of Jessup.

And, as viewers, we could make the assumption that he will be prosecuted in court, but that doesn't mean it would go well and certainly doesn't mean he would be convicted or punished. In fact, you could likely make the argument, based on what is presented in the movie, that Jessup, if he were to be prosecuted, might be found not guilty (or might plea bargain down to a lesser charge ... plea bargaining is a big plot device in the movie, after all).

So in other words, I think that the answer to your question is that, given what the movie tells us, we can't say anything at all about a theoretical Jessup prosecution; it is quite possible that there is not enough evidence to eventually prosecute or convict him (although I wouldn't call it a plot hole, but just a "hey this movie is ending" issue).

Here's an interesting message board thread where people debate this issue more, coming to pretty much the same conclusion (that Jessup will likely be tried, but very possibly not convicted):

Also, the two marines were not completely acquitted; they were both found guilty of conduct unbecoming and were dishonorably discharged.

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Good answer. Still I would add that even if it didn't have any legal consequences for Jessup, the accompanying scandal would probably not leave him without any consequences. So I wouldn't regard this so much as an open ending for him, in one or another way his carreer is likely to suffer (even if not in an "official" way). – Napoleon Wilson Jul 9 '13 at 16:03

As far as the two lower enlisted "only following" orders, as a service member, you are supposed to follow "lawful" orders. If a General ordered you to go out and murder 6 children, if you don't follow the order, you of course would not get in trouble, however if you did, you would go to prison. Now, that being said, it is is established in the film, that the Code Red is a form of punishment that is commonplace for that particular unit. With that in mind, you can't expect two lower enlisted soldiers to understand if that in fact is a lawful order or not.

I worked in the Army Jag Corps for years, it is rare to see a "Dishonorable Discharge", that is usually saved for murderers and rapist and such. Since it was proven that there was no intent to harm Pvt Santiago, only to train, I doubt they would have received that discharge classification. Also, they went on trial for murder, so any defense attorney worth his salt could easily get a retrail based on the new evidence and prove they were following orders they believed beyond a shadow of a doubt were infact "lawful" orders and keep their careers. After all, Santiago's death was a freak accident, not intentional.

What got me is how Jessup got arrested. What would normally take place is with the new evidence, an investigation would take place and if the evidence would charges being pressed, he would then possibly be arrested, but he would surely get released until the trail

One more thing, Lt Kendrick is done, we will be prosecuted for perjury and he will get discharged. Probably no jail time, but his career is over.

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While dishonorable is the worst, aren't there several other "bad" discharges? IIRC (I was in the AF), there is Bad Conduct, General, Discharge under other than Honorable and Medical. (I may be missing a couple). It's almost a moot point, as pretty much any discharge other than medical or honorable kinds of jacks you for life. – JohnP May 27 '14 at 18:15

I was an officer in the U.S Army.

There are oaths that are sworn when you are commissioned. In my opinion, Col. Jessup would have been charged with several offenses under the UCMJ (Unified Code of Military Justice). Issuing an illegal order would have been one, but more importantly and more severe would have been several counts of perjury, as well as interfering with a governmental investigation and conduct unbecoming of a Marine.

Committing perjury on the stand is probably why he was immediately detained by the trial judge in lieu of returning to his post while under investigation. Whether or not he would have seen any jail-time would probably have hinged on the amount of publicity the case would have received. But without a doubt, his military career would be over as well as any future political aspirations he may have entertained.

I would imagine that at the least, he would have been reduced in rank and forced to retire. But this was a fictional story. A very good one I might add.

One last note, after the problems began with Cuba in the early 1960's, anything that happened at Gitmo were classified at the highest levels. Any incidents like the one portrayed in the film would been notoriously hidden from public. It was not until 9/11 and the war in Iraq, that the American people became familiar with the operations at Gitmo.

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If I understand your amply lengthy question correctly, you want to know how the court can punish him without sufficient proofs against him. Actually Kaffee had a strong witness i.e. Col. Markinson whose testimony was sufficient to punish Col. Jessup. But due to his sad and sudden death, Kaffee felt lost. So the only way Kaffee could think of was to produce Col. Jessup and to compel him to admit that he had ordered the Code Red. So he summoned Jessup in the court, questioned him wittingly, got him entrapped by exploiting his intolerant nature and finally made him admit that he had ordered Code Red himself. Now a self-admittance or confession is no doubt above all proofs. If somebody confesses his own misdeed, what else proof is needed for? So the court found him guilty.

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Though I guess the question is up to something more about Jessup not being responsible himself, but I haven't really understood the question completely, I have to admit. – Napoleon Wilson Jul 6 '13 at 18:39
Jessup confesses of ordering Code Red. But Code Red is "Unofficial Disciplinary action", it is not an order to Kill the marine. Your answer covers only half my question. When Jessup says "We follow orders or people die" He's saying Superiors orders are not ignored. But no proof is provided to this thing – KharoBangdo Jul 7 '13 at 13:12
When did a court find Jessup guilty? He was arrested at the end of the movie, but I don't remember any reference to him actually being tried. See my answer for more details. Confession and arrest is not the same as conviction. – jlmcdonald Jul 9 '13 at 5:18

Jessup has to be made a scapegoat otherwise the marine corps is condoning the code red. The US govt has to distance themselves from this. I think loss of rank and pension. Dishonorable discharge for conduct unbecoming.

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Any backup for this wild conjecture? – JohnP Feb 26 '14 at 22:48

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