T'Girl and Timo,
T'Girls idea is intriguing and I can generally buy into it as a valid possibility, but there's still a few things nagging at me.
For example, how do you tie this into the significance the episode placed on whether or not Kirk had gone from Yellow Alert to Red Alert before jettisoning the pod? I'm not nearly the best at recalling dialogue from memory, but the central issue in Court Martial seemed to be Kirk's claim that he had gone to Red Alert before jettisoning, while the computer log showed they were still only at Yellow Alert.
Why would that be essential if jettisoning the pod was part of the standard process? I mean if the pod's ready to launch and the ship's in a suitable position, why would it matter what alert status you're at? Why would that change in status be the primary factor that his court martial charges seemed to rest on?
The implication to me seemed to be that if he had in fact gone to Red Alert before jettisoning the pod, then he would've been deemed justified in doing so, even if Finney was still in there. I don't recall him being charged with some sort of negligence for launching a pod with a crew member still in it, but for doing so prematurely...when the ship was still only at Yellow Alert. In fact the Commodore seems satisfied that Kirk followed proper procedures and a court martial isn't even convened until a review of the computer logs contradicts Kirk's statement that the ship was at Red Alert...not because of any contradiction to being certain Finney was out of the pod or not.
Now I could buy that going to Red Alert might've been some final indication to Finney to get out now and that launch was imminent, but if launch was a standard procedure and Finney was still in there for some reason, then jettisoning would've still been an offense at any Alert level. You'd just scrub the launch and get out of the storm. The only reason to me that Kirk actions would've been initially deemed appropriate would be if the pod itself represented some sort of danger to the ship and had to be jettisoned whether or not Finney got out, which brings us back to the question of why would the pod represent a danger.
To sum it up, I recall the hinge factor in Kirk's trial as being the timing of going from Yellow to Red alert, not the fact that a crewmember was still in it. Like I said though, I'm not good at recalling dialogue sometimes, so correct me if I'm misremembering.