Military veterans on death row deserve special consideration Purple Heart

On this commemorative national holiday, I share a report that comes at Veterans Day via a different angle—an analysis of those veterans who sit on death row in the United States.

The topic may be an uncomfortable one, but those who work in specialty courts dedicated to veterans caught up in the justice system may find it evocative. I’d appreciate know what they—or anyone—thinks of the report. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

I recommend to you an article in The Guardian that discusses numerous cases of those who served who now face the severest penalty. Among those is James Davis, “one of hundreds former service members condemned to death at the hands of a government they risked their lives to protect and serve, according to a report, ‘Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty,’ published by the Death Penalty Information Center on Tuesday.”

As the report’s executive summary opens:

“In many respects, veterans in the United States are again receiving the respect and gratitude they deserve for having risked their lives and served their country. Wounded soldiers are welcomed home, and their courage in starting a new and difficult journey in civilian life is rightly applauded. But some veterans with debilitating scars from their time in combat have received a very different reception. They have been judged to be the ‘worst of the worst’ criminals, deprived of mercy, sentenced to death, and executed by the government they served.”

“Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who have committed heinous crimes present hard cases for our system of justice. The violence that occasionally erupts into murder can easily overcome the special respect that is afforded most veterans. However, looking away and ignoring this issue serves neither veterans nor victims.”

Download the full report here.