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Soldier’s murder case could lead to more PTSD defenses

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SEATTLE — When Staff Sgt. Robert Bales admitted to murdering 16 Afghan civilians including several children, he still couldn’t tell the judge why.

robert bales1“I’ve asked myself that question a million times since then,” Bales said. “There is not a good reason in the world for doing the horrible thing I did.”

Bales did take responsibility for the murders in exchange for a plea deal that spares him the death penalty. But when he’s sentenced, his lawyers will bring up his mental status at the time of the killings.

“I think any panel can understand that Sgt. Bales is a person who would not have done this but for a set of conditions,” Emma Scanlan, Bales’ attorney, said.

Scanlan points to Bales’ four war zone deployments, a brain injury in combat, and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. That’s what the jury will hear about and it could give the soldier a chance at life with parole, meaning he could be out of prison in 10 years.

“They can understand that and they can decide that he deserves a chance,” Scanlan said. “It’s only a chance, but he deserves a chance to potentially someday be reunited with his family.”

With more than 200,000 soldiers diagnosed with PTSD, lawyers expect a lot more criminal cases using PTSD as a defense.

“It’s not a go-to defense, it’s the reality of having served our country,” Stephen Carpenter, a military defense lawyer, said.

Soldiers with PTSD can suffer flashbacks and outbursts of anger and violence.

On the same day Sgt. Bales admitted to the Afghan murders, an Iraq War vet in Spokane was being arraigned for murder. Jason Hart is accused of killing his girlfriend and placing her body in a tub full of acid.

His estranged wife said he had been diagnosed with PTSD and it will likely be used as part of his defense. It’s likely he won’t be the last to use PTSD as a defense.

“People who spend time outside the military before they enter, maybe they were good people,” Carpenter said. “And then as a result of them going down range they saw some horrible things, they developed PTSD, so it’s within that context that I think this issue will be played out over and over again.”

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  • Daniel Haszard

    Current drug PTSD treatment for Veterans found ineffective.

    Eli Lilly made $70 billion on the Zyprexa franchise.Lilly was fined $1.4 billion for Zyprexa fraud!
    The atypical antipsychotics (Zyprexa,Risperdal,Seroquel) are like a 'synthetic' Thorazine,only they cost ten times more than the old fashioned typical antipsychotics.
    These newer generation drugs still pack their list of side effects like diabetes for the user.All these drugs work as so called 'major tranquilizers'.This can be a contradiction with PTSD suffers as we are hyper vigilant and feel uncomfortable with a drug that puts you to sleep and makes you sluggish.
    That's why drugs like Zyprexa don't work for PTSD survivors like myself.
    Daniel Haszard

  • Jassen sanders

    Probably the toughest time in anyone's life is when you have to murder a loved one because they're the devil. Taking one's life is God's, not ours! Therefore, no man has the right to kill. It is so frightening how easy it is for a person to commit murder.And just right after a person pulled the trigger they suddenly don't understand anything that happens. I say that murder is somehow an abstract that is why I've searched security devices that will notify me whenever emergency arises and can quickly reach 911 with all the information needed. And then I found this service that works so great! Check it here:

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