Support the Troops — Acquit a Vet

 Posted on June 27, 2007 in Uncategorized

The lead story in the Houston Chronicle this morning was this: Mayor White Mobilizes Aid for Texas Veterans. "One in 11 soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan," begins the article, "is Texan." (Texas and Washington have lots of servicepeople because they have no income tax.) Unless Texas soldiers are particularly injury-prone, this probably means that one in 11 soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan is Texan, one in 11 soldiers suffering from PTSD is Texan, and one in 11 soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) is Texan.

Practicing criminal defense law in Houston, I've represented many soldiers and Marines, both active and veterans. These folks, many of whom have suffered grievous visible and invisible injuries upholding their oath to defend the Constitution, are harshly treated by many in the criminal "justice" system. Some of the jurors who deal most harshly with our servicemen claim to "support the troops." It has occurred to me that some who say they "support the troops" what they mean is that they "support the government," and that this support for the government carries over to a jury trial, in which they are happy to go along with whatever draconian measures the government proposes.

"The troops" are not some vague concept that you can support by punching out the right hole on the ballot or listening to the right radio station. They are human beings who put their lives on the line for your safety and freedom. Here's a suggestion: have some compassion for them.

Cops, if you pull a serviceman over after he's had a few drinks between tours, think about giving him a ride home instead of to Central Intox. (In fairness to the cops, many of them are veterans, and if a serviceman is going to catch a break anywhere in the criminal justice system it's before the DA accepts charges. There are a few prosecutors who are veterans, but life experience of any kind, including military service, is not in the typical prosecutorial career path.)

Prosecutors, if a soldier with two tours in Iraq behind him and one ahead is in a car with a couple of guys and some dope, ask yourself whether it makes sense to charge him (and make him hire counsel to fight the charges) or whether it makes more sense to conclude that he was an innocent bystander.

Judges, try to wrap your minds around the idea that TBI and PTSD can cause changes to the personality of an injured person so that he makes "choices" that he wouldn't have made before his brain got bruised.

Jurors, if a Marine, trained at your expense and for your benefit and sent to Southeast Asia to kill, is caught carrying a gun where the law says he probably shouldn't, consider stretching the law of self-defense to its limit to cut him some slack.

With TBI (the signature wound of the Iraq war) and PTSD becoming increasingly common and remaining poorly understood by lawyers, judges, and jurors, if we don't have some compassion for servicemen caught up in the criminal "justice" system their future will be pretty bleak.

Technorati Tags: PTSD, TBI, veterans

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