Military Court Will Reconsider Criminalization of Suicide Attempts


In a case involving a discharged Marine from Oceanside, Ca., a military court next week will consider the decades-old military statute that makes it a crime to attempt suicide, the Los Angeles Times reports. Attorneys for Lazzaric Caldwell will argue it is wrong for the military to punish troops whose mental problems cause them to attempt suicide, particularly in an era when the military is trying to reduce the soaring suicide rate among troops.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice was used in World War II to punish troops attempting to avoid duty by faking suicide. The statute has not come to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which will consider Caldwell’s case, since the Gulf War of 1990-91, when it was upheld. Navy Lt. Michael Hanzel, representing Caldwell, argued that “surely, neither Congress nor the president intended [the statute] [ ] to prosecute mentally ill people who make genuine suicide attempts.” Marine Maj. David Roberts, representing the government, countered that the statute is clearly written and that it helps retain discipline within the ranks.

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