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Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury During Court-Martial

Written by: Federal Practice Group
Written by: Federal Practice Group

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As more and more combat veterans return from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat zones, many of them will have to receive proper care and treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). If they do not, they may turn to violent acts leading to a court-martial.

As such, it is critical for civilian or military defense counsels to explain to each judge and panel member how their client's decision-making is affected by PTSD or TBI. Civilian or military defense attorneys must effectively engage subject matter experts in PTSD to properly explain their client's actions to win an acquittal or mitigate any punishment. Also, PTSD and TBI analysis must be included in mitigation and post-trial relief. Often, prosecutors may introduce their own experts to negate the claim that an accused Servicemember suffers from PTSD or TBI. Effective defense counsels must be prepared to cross-examine prosecution experts about PTSD and TBI to show inconsistencies in their testimonies.

In Porter v. McCollum, 130 S.Ct. 447 (2009), the United States Supreme Court found that Porter's defense counsel was ineffective (violation of 6th Amendment right to counsel) because he did not uncover evidence of Porter's mental health issues, abusive childhood, and heroic military service. Porter was found guilty of two counts of first degree murder and sentenced to death. The ineffective defense counsel introduced inconsistent mitigation evidence of family relations and alcoholism. The United States Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision upholding the death sentence and remanded the case for further proceedings focusing more on the accurate mitigation evidence: mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder, heroic military service, and abusive childhood.

Military defense attorneys at The Federal Practice Group have been deployed and understand the dynamics of PTSD and TBI. If you are looking for an attorney who understands how to educate judges and panel members about PTSD or TBI and to properly address it during trials and in mitigation, then contract the Federal Practice Group.

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