A report issued by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) shines light on military veterans facing the death penalty. The report, titled “Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty,” exposes the scope of this crisis and calls on authorities to better account for service members facing execution. DPIC estimates that there are at least 300 veterans on death row, representing about 10 percent of the nation’s death row population. Many more have already been executed.
Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who have committed heinous crimes present hard cases for the justice system. The violence that erupts into murder can easily overcome the special respect that is afforded most veterans. Defense attorneys representing veterans often fail to investigate and the present evidence of PTSD and other war-related mental injuries. As such, prosecutors, judges, and juries are often not adequately informed about the psychological effects of being immersed in combat.
The report is not offered as the final word on this issue, but rather as a wake-up call to government officials and the public that some veterans are being left behind.