Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

US Court of Military Justice Had Jurisdiction to Court Martial Servicemember with Autism

Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

US Court of Military Justice Had Jurisdiction to Court Martial Servicemember with Autism

Article excerpt

The Armed Forces Court of Appeals has held that the United States Military Court had jurisdiction to court martial a servicemember with autism who had been adjudicated incapacitated by the State of California and had had a conservator appointed. United States v. Fry, 70 M.J. 465, 2012 CAAP Lexis 201 (February 12, 2012). Joshua D. Fry, a private in the U.S. Marine Corps, was subjected to court martial for two counts of being absent without leave and four specifications of possessing child pornography, and was sentenced to a bad conduct discharge, confinement for four years and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. The sentence in excess of twelve months was suspended for twelve months. The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed.

As a 16-year old, Fry initially met a Marine Corps recruiter while living in California, but was leaving at that time for Colorado to attend a school for adolescents with psychiatric, emotional or behavioral problems. Prior to his departure, his grandmother petitioned a California court for a limited conservatorship because of his autism and arrest for stealing and carrying a "dirk or dagger," alleging that her grandson was unable to provide for his needs for health, clothing and shelter, and that he could not control his impulsivity. At the uncontested hearing, the court entered an order restricting Fry's ability to choose a residence, access confidential papers and records, contract and give or withhold consent to medical treatment and make all decisions concerning his education. When he was 20 years old, Fry returned to California still subject to the conservatorship, met the same recruiter, and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He passed the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, certified that he understood the terms of his enlistment and obtained his birth certificate and Social Security card from his grandmother. He thereupon undertook the obligations, duties and training of a Marine and received pay and allowances.

Fry first began to have issues in basic training. He stole peanut butter and hid it in his sock, urinated in his canteen, refused to eat, and failed to shave and lied about it. He informed medical staff that he was autistic and asthmatic, and medical staff recommended that he be sent home. He nonetheless remained, convincing Marine Corps staff that he was motivated and wanted to return to training. …

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