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Last Stand? The Criminal Responsibility of War Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

55 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2009 Last revised: 8 Mar 2010

Thomas L. Hafemeister

Independent

Nicole A. Stockey

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: March 4, 2010

Abstract

As more psychologically-scarred troops return from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, society's focus on and concern for these troops and their psychological disorders has increased. With this increase and with associated studies confirming the validity of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis and the genuine impact of PTSD on the behavior of war veterans, greater weight may be given to the premise that PTSD is a mental disorder that provides grounds for a "mental status defense", such as insanity, a lack of mens rea, or self-defense. Although considerable impediments remain, given the current political climate, Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans are in a better position to succeed in these defenses than Vietnam War veterans were a generation ago. This Article explores the prevalence and impact of PTSD, particularly in war veterans, the relevance of this disorder to the criminal justice system, and the likely evolution of related mental status defenses as Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans return from combat.

Keywords: Criminal Law and Procedure, Criminal Responsibility, the Insanity Defense, Mens Rea, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Veterans

Suggested Citation

Hafemeister, Thomas L. and Stockey, Nicole A., Last Stand? The Criminal Responsibility of War Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (March 4, 2010). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 85, No. 1, p. 87, 2010; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2009-06. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1470126

Nicole A. Stockey

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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