War Rage – PTSD as a Defense for Murder?

by | May 7, 2012


CNN Presents with Randi Kaye on Sunday evening showed in the above video link the dramatic and tragic implications of life after war.  Some combat veterans can be damaged emotionally so severely that outbursts and rage can actually take them back into a combat hyper vigilant state of mind; trained to defend and to kill.  But this time it is at home where there is no enemy.  Some of our combat veterans, as told in this documentary by friends and family, come back different and disassociated.  They struggle with medications, psychotherapy treatment, and the challenge of adjustment following deployment.  In some rare cases, including the recent murderous rampage by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Afghanistan, http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20120323/NEWS02/703239797,  wind up in the courts with a potentially plausible and provable defense of insanity, https://msrc.fsu.edu/news/under-fire-wartime-stress-defense-murder.  There is already one precedent of a jury finding a former combat veteran innocent by reason of insanity, who then was committed to a mental health institution for treatment, potential recovery, and prospect of release back into society.

In my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, I write about how scary my Dad was at times.  We were lucky as a family that none of us were killed.  Memories of Dad’s PTSD rage from extended combat duty during WWII and Korean War are very vivid and affected the entire family for a lifetime.  Family members and loved ones often suffer from the same symptoms of PTSD as the parent who served in combat.  Mental health professionals and the judicial system are beginning to see evidence of serious moral injury and possible insanity caused by severe trauma in combat.  Whether or not society is ready to consider PTSD as a defense for murder will play out over time in the courts.  It is serious enough that more and more cases are surfacing with the increased number of combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD come home to a challenging life after war.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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