A report by the Death Penalty Information Center found that 10 percent of prisoners on death row are military veterans. According to the researchers, a significant number of these convicts suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that was not taken into consideration during their trials. The report was published on the lights of the upcoming Veteran Day this Wednesday.
Richard C. Dieter, former Death Penalty Information Center’s executive director, deemed the capital punishment as a questionable procedure when it came to people who had served in the military, since some of them who had been diagnosed with PTSD were still sent to death row when the prosecutors failed to address the negative effects of their mental condition.
Dieter emphasized the need to consider a veteran’s military background, and possible traumas that military service could have left in them, before considering death penalty as an option.
Those who defend the center’s report argue that PTSD can cause sufferers to lose judgment after having faced traumatic events, prompting some of them to engage in violent acts.
They presented the case of Louis Jones Jr., a decorated soldier from the first Gulf War and Grenada with no previous criminal record who was given capital punishment in 2003 after his allegations of PTSD following a war incident weren’t acknowledged by the prosecutors. The man raped and killed a woman, allegedly under the effects of the illness — his wife testified about her husband’s unstable behavior before committing the crime, which showed some of the symptoms related to the disorder.
They also went over Andrew Brannan’s case, a Vietnam veteran entirely qualified for PTSD and bipolar disorder disability who was sent to death row without any regards for his mental illnesses after one of his prosecutors downplayed the issue, stating that ‘everyone had a little bit of PTSD’.
“A broader understanding of the interaction between jarring trauma and the later eruption of violence could pave the way for a thorough reevaluation of society’s approach to violence and mental illness in a country that is proud of its renewed respect for veterans,” explained Dieter.
There are those who disagree with the report’s stance. One of them is Kent S. Scheidegger, legal director of the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, who supports death penalty and states that having PTSD won’t necessarily lead people to commit violent acts.
The director explained that while the defense can bring any issue they consider pertinent to aid the case, saying someone has PTSD is still a broad statement with little mitigating value, which is why attorneys don’t often bring up the illness or other issues resulting from military service on trials.
The death penalty issue is becoming highly controversial in contemporary America, causing more people to stand against it according to recent statistics.
Source: Los Angeles Times