An Army appeals court's November decision to uphold the death sentence of Timothy Hennis, a former Fort Bragg soldier, is raising questions over the death penalty in military court.
The decision came after Hennis appealed the death penalty sentence he was handed in his 2010 court martial.
Hennis was charged in 1986 with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of rape after raping and killing Kathryn Eastburn and two of her three daughters. Hennis was an Army Sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg at the time.
Hennis’ lawyers appealed the case and the state supreme court granted Hennis a new trial in 1988. He was later acquitted in 1989. He re-enlisted in the Army and eventually retired in the early 2000s.
After retiring, Hennis was called back into service and sent to Fort Bragg in 2006 for prosecution. Shortly after reporting for duty, the military charged Hennis with triple murder again, this time in military court. Hennis was found guilty once again and sentenced to death a second time in 2010, which his defense said is double jeopardy.
Frank Baumgartner, a professor of political science at UNC, said the death penalty is rarely carried out.
“The federal government has only executed three people since 1976 and the military hasn’t executed anybody,” Baumgartner said.
The last time the military executed someone was 1961 before it was banned in 1983 then reinstated in 1984. Today, there are currently six men on military death row, including Hennis.
“It’s unlikely that the military would actually carry it out," Baumgartner said. "It’s very paradoxical, it’s very strange."