Veterans’ PTSD Increasingly Used as Criminal Defense

Posted by Debra White | Sep 18, 2011 | 0 Comments

Attorneys are successfully using post-traumatic stress disorder affecting veterans in criminal defense proceedings.  In fact, both courts and prosecutors are now more agreeable to considering a veteran's post-traumatic stress disorder while determining sentencing for nonviolent crimes.

For Los Angeles military crime defense lawyers with veteran clients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, there are strong precedents to go by.  In 2009, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the death penalty for a Korean War veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.  There are more than 80 special veterans courts across the country, and more are likely to join the network.  Being tried in a veteran court does not automatically mean lowered sentences.  However, these courts do open up other avenues to handle veterans accused of crimes. They are more likely to suggest other options, including PTSD treatment and probation.  The special veterans' courts work closely with the Department of Veterans' Affairs medical centers.

In North Carolina, one Iraq veteran is being tried for the murder of his ten-month-old daughter.  He is accused of slamming the child's face into the floor and stuffing toilet paper down her throat, causing her death.  Joshua Stepp admits killing the girl, but his lawyers say that he is not guilty of first-degree murder, because his post-traumatic stress disorder left him incapable of premeditation, a prerequisite for a first-degree murder conviction.  His lawyers are asking jurors to convict him on charges of second degree murder instead.

There are still pockets of resistance to the use of post-traumatic stress disorder for criminal defense.  While awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder affecting service members returning from combat duty has increased, it is not widespread.

About the Author

Debra White

Attorney Debra S. White is an aggressive and talented trial attorney based in Los-Angeles, California who has successfully represented clients accused of sex crimes in both state and federal courts since 1999. Ms. White is a fierce advocate who enjoys the many challenging aspects of sex crimes defense, including defending against false accusations, faulty memories, and prosecutorial misconduct.


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White Goldstein

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