Former Marine on Death Row - Attorney Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

When we send Marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors into combat, they don’t all come out okay – and that’s never been more painfully obvious than when John Thuesen was sentenced to death in Texas.

Thuesen was convicted of fatally shooting his girlfriend and her brother in 2010, but he has a documented case of severe post-traumatic stress disorder that may have contributed to his actions that day.

Brazo County District Judge Travis Bryan III recently agreed with Thuesen’s appellate lawyers when they claimed that Thuesen’s original defense team didn’t adequately inform jurors about their client’s PTSD.

This could be a groundbreaking case, because more and more veterans are making their ways through the legal system nationwide – and many are being charged with and sentenced for violent crimes.

While violence isn’t a direct symptom of PTSD, the disorder sometimes contributes to violent behaviors. Veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder often “self-medicate” with alcohol or drugs, and when that happens, there’s a recipe for disaster.

Some legal experts are calling for an exception to death penalty laws in states that have them – one that would preclude veterans with PTSD from facing death for their crimes.

Studies have shown that nearly half of all veterans who spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan seek treatment for PTSD and traumatic brain injury, and experts estimate that nearly 50 percent of the veterans who do have PTSD don’t seek any treatment at all. Experts suggest that up to 17 percent of American troops who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom have post-traumatic stress disorder.

The service members who do seek treatment, whether through the Veterans Administration or through outside sources, only get “minimally adequate” treatment, according to the Center for Military Health Policy Research.

What do you think? Should veterans be exempt from the death penalty if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or should they face the same consequences as everyone else does? I’d love to hear your opinion on this extremely controversial topic, so share it on my Facebook page.

Carlos Gamino