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Wilson v. Girad


    Citation. WILSON v. GIRARD, 354 U.S. 524, 77 S. Ct. 1409, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1544, 1957 U.S. LEXIS 577 (U.S. July 11, 1957)

    Brief Fact Summary. A Specialist Third Class in the United States Army named Girad (D), wounded a Japanese woman during a military exercise in Japan. Japan indicted Girad (D) for causing death by wounding, but Girad (D) was granted an injunction against his delivery to the Japanese authorities.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A sovereign nation has exclusive jurisdiction to punish offenses against its law committed within its borders, unless it expressly or impliedly consents to surrender its jurisdiction.

    Facts. A Japanese woman was wounded during a military exercise in Japan by Girad (D), who was a Specialist Third Class in the United States Army. A security treaty between Japan and the United States authorized the making of administrative agreements between the two governments concerning the conditions that would govern the disposition of the United States Armed Forces in Japan. The agreement stipulated that the United States was at liberty to waive its jurisdiction over offenses committed in Japan by members of its armed forces. The two countries subsequently entered into another protocol agreement in pursuant to the NATO agreement. It authorized that in criminal cases where the right to jurisdiction is concurrent, the military authorities of the United States would have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over members of the armed forces for offenses arising out of any act or omission done in the performance of official duty. Since Girad (D) act was done in the performance of official duty which gave the U.S. jurisdiction, the United States (P) claimed it had the right to try Girad (D). Japan countered this on the ground that Girad’s (D) action was not within the scope of his official duty and therefore it had the primary right of jurisdiction. The U.S. ultimately waived whatever jurisdiction it might have. A writ of habeas corpus sought by Girad (D) was denied but he was granted an injunction against delivery to the Japanese authorities. Wilson (P), Secretary of Defense, appealed.

    Issue. Does a sovereign nation has exclusive jurisdiction to punish offenses against its law committed within its borders, unless it expressly or impliedly consents to surrender its jurisdiction?

    Held. (Per curiam). Yes. A sovereign nation has exclusive jurisdiction to punish offenses against its law committed within its borders, unless it expressly or impliedly consents to surrender its jurisdiction. Japan’s cession to the United States of jurisdiction to try American military personnel for conduct constituting an offense against the laws of both countries was conditioned by the protocol agreement, which provided that “the authorities of the state having the primary right shall give sympathetic consideration to a request from the authorities of the other state for a waiver of its right in cases where that other state considers such a waiver to be of particular importance.” The wisdom of the arrangement is exclusively for the determination of the executive and legislative branches in the absence of such statutory or constitutional barriers. These branches have decided to waive jurisdiction and deliver Girad (D to the Japanese authorities. The judgment is therefore reversed.

    Discussion. The trend towards granting limited immunities in cases relating to official acts and archives appears to be on the rise. The agreements between the U.S. and Japan are good examples of the willingness of one nation to grant a special position to foreign government employees.


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