Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: When It’s Real, It’s Real
Monday was the second annual Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. PTSD is a well-recognized medical condition. It’s something that’s making an impact in legal ways too, like disability and employment law. In an interesting coincidence, it resurfaced on Monday as an issue in the Casey Anthony trial.*
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affecting many combat and "noncombat" vets
- Even persons exposed to horrible events in ordinary life can suffer PTSD
- PTSD alone does not excuse crimes committed by sufferers
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PTSD Doesn’t Ordinarily Excuse Crimes
PTSD is probably most closely connected with combat veterans. Many vets suffer to a greater or lesser degree some physical and mental impairment from the physical and mental shocks and injuries combat brings. The Department of Labor chose to highlight the growing number of women vets who suffer from the syndrome. The Obama administration has simplified the PTSD disability claims process.
Although PTSD is recognized medically and is recognized as a disability for the Americans with Disabilities Act, the criminal justice system is wary of it. There’s no such thing as a standalone Post Traumatic Stress Disorder defense. Not yet.
Insanity and diminished capacity are the two defenses available for someone who did it, but wants to avoid punishment. So if you’re going the PTSD route, a jury will have to believe the condition made you legally insane or something like it when you committed the crime. The same goes for post-partum psychosis, which ob/gyns and mental health physicians have seen forever.
Might offering evidence of repeated rape and incest, leading to PTSD, help Casey, in some other way? It could be offered to explain away Casey’s seemingly bizarre behavior after Caylee’s death. If believed, it could also gain the jurors’ sympathies. It’s glib to say it "can’t hurt," because jurors can be turned off if it looks like an obvious ploy.
*Coincidental, though not surprising. Next she’ll be saying Whitey Bulger did it.
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