Citing 300 U.S. veterans on death rows around the U.S., an advocacy group is calling for greater efforts to help battle-scarred former troops who are convicted of capital murder after their military service, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., found that veterans represent about 10 percent of those convicted of capital murder, about the same as their percentage of the overall prison population. Researchers concluded that judges, prosecutors and even the White House sometimes fail to appreciate the impact that post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental issues can cause for returning veterans.
“Capital punishment stands out as a questionable punishment for those who have served in the military,” said the center’s Richard Dieter. “Even today, there are veterans on death row with PTSD that was unexplored at their trial or undervalued for its pernicious effects.” He said prosecutors and judges should be “aware of a veteran's military background as soon as capital charges become possible,” as well as any mental problems from his service record. Kent Scheidegger of the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a leading supporter of the death penalty, said a PTSD diagnosis does not automatically lead to violent acts. “The defense has the right to have any issues in litigation brought up and considered by the jury,” he said. “But saying someone has PTSD is an enormously broad statement.”