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  • Generals Say Hundreds Of Veterans On Death Row Deserve Leniency

    Hundreds of veterans are on death row, and now three retired Generals are saying their sentences may be unfair.

    Brig. Gen. James P. Cullen (Ret.), Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine (Ret.),  and Brig. Gen. Stephen N. Xenakis (Ret.) say the criminal justice system is not properly addressing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and veterans are unjustly sentenced as a result. About 300 veterans are currently on death row according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

    The three retired generals wrote an editorial in USA Today saying that juries and judges who don’t have experience on the battlefield misjudge the effects of PTSD. They argue that this inability to empathize leads to some veterans getting treated too harshly. While their PTSD doesn’t excuse them, it should be taken into account.

    “However, the very symptoms that define PTSD can be frightening to a jury if not carefully explained by a mental health expert familiar with the illness,” they wrote in the article. “Defense attorneys are often not adequately prepared to investigate and present this kind of evidence; prosecutors or judges might dismiss it because others with similar combat experiences did not murder anyone. Perhaps some of the blame should be more broadly shared because we sometimes choose to look away when a veteran’s scars are not the kind that we know how to cope with.”

    The article points to Andrew Brannan, James Davis, and John Thuesen, three veterans who received a death sentence. The generals argue that the vets’ PTSD was not given enough consideration. They say PTSD is a mental illness that should be considered a serious mitigating factor. In criminal proceedings, juries consider multiple “mitigating factors.” The stipulation allows the jury to still find someone guilty but give them a lesser sentence because circumstances made their crime less egregious.

    “We are not arguing here about the morality or the utility of the death penalty. But at a minimum, when a judge or jury is weighing a person’s life or death, they should have full knowledge and understanding of that person’s life history,” they write. “Veterans with PTSD — and, in fact, all those with serious mental illness at the time of their crime — deserve a complete investigation and presentation of their mental state by the best experts in the field.”

    The article points to a study that found only about half of veterans with PTSD get the treatment they need.

    “Decision-makers — jurors, judges and governors — should be informed that such information is a valid reason to spare a defendant from capital punishment,” they write. “There are alternatives, such as life in prison without parole.”

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    Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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