War Rage – PTSD as a Defense for Murder?


CNN Presents with Randi Kaye on Sunday evening showed in the above video link the dramatic and tragic implications of life after war.  Some combat veterans can be damaged emotionally so severely that outbursts and rage can actually take them back into a combat hyper vigilant state of mind; trained to defend and to kill.  But this time it is at home where there is no enemy.  Some of our combat veterans, as told in this documentary by friends and family, come back different and disassociated.  They struggle with medications, psychotherapy treatment, and the challenge of adjustment following deployment.  In some rare cases, including the recent murderous rampage by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Afghanistan, http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20120323/NEWS02/703239797,  wind up in the courts with a potentially plausible and provable defense of insanity, https://msrc.fsu.edu/news/under-fire-wartime-stress-defense-murder.  There is already one precedent of a jury finding a former combat veteran innocent by reason of insanity, who then was committed to a mental health institution for treatment, potential recovery, and prospect of release back into society.

In my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, I write about how scary my Dad was at times.  We were lucky as a family that none of us were killed.  Memories of Dad’s PTSD rage from extended combat duty during WWII and Korean War are very vivid and affected the entire family for a lifetime.  Family members and loved ones often suffer from the same symptoms of PTSD as the parent who served in combat.  Mental health professionals and the judicial system are beginning to see evidence of serious moral injury and possible insanity caused by severe trauma in combat.  Whether or not society is ready to consider PTSD as a defense for murder will play out over time in the courts.  It is serious enough that more and more cases are surfacing with the increased number of combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD come home to a challenging life after war.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

One thought on “War Rage – PTSD as a Defense for Murder?

  1. Dan and Elaina* ~ PTSD-is-Normal.com

    Violence begets violence. Like thetragic story in the news recently, of the mother in Florida who shot and killed her 4 children and then herself, she was recently estranged from her husband. I would venture to guess that the violence started in their deteriorating relationship, if not much further back in the family’s history.

    As I said in my comment on your previous post, my crazed, deeply traumatized mother’s reaction to my father almost killing her, was to first threaten to stab herself with a butcher knife in front of us kids when we were “making too much noise and getting on her nerves,” and then she tried to gas us all to death while we were sleeping in our beds. She did not succeed because I, as the 12-year-old eldest child, was hypervigilant and unable to sleep ever since the night that my dad had come so close to killing my mother that I had thought she was dead. So I was awake and I noticed that the heat was not coming on… I went and checked and found that the pilot light was off… and that the thermostat was turned as high as it would go. So I got my mother out of bed to fix the problem, because I did not know how, and then she told me what she had been trying to do. She said she would be doing us all a favor by taking us out of this horrible world!!

    I am 59 now, and still deeply emotionally scarred by that trauma. But lately, as I have been writing the history timeline of my childhood traumas on my PTSD is normal blog, it is really starting to help me see and understand how traumatized and insane my mother must have been, to do the unthinkable. I have never been able to understand and forgive her. I have never been able to let it go. But I need to.


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