Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Criminal defense | Posted on 01-08-2011
It was a typical case, unfortunately. Daring the police to shoot him, the man waved a pistol, pointed the gun at his own head, even shot off a few rounds from his pistol. Luckily, he had laid down his .45 pistol before he came into proximity of the police so they only used a Taser on him. Too many times police answering a 911 call for help by by the person who is doing the shooting ends up getting shot by the police. No surprise he was then charged with five counts of assault with intent to commit murder on the police, each count carrying a possible sentence of life in prison.
What was a surprise was the eventual outcome of the incident. This man was a veteran of Iraq and his case was ultimately handled by a veterans court. Finally enough people have gotten together to create a system that recognizes the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome effects from service given for our country.
Everyone has heard about too much destructive behavior, too many suicide attempts, bar fights, domestic abuse and confrontations with the police from the returning veterans. It is common knowledge that many soldiers and marines have been come back home in a dramatically deteriorated mental condition, but getting around to giving them the understanding of our justice system has been overdue and ad hoc.
Blame for bad behavior does not give up lightly in the U.S.A., however. No matter how the behavior arose, no matter these veterans’ minds are victims of our wars, there is a strong impulse not to allow them to go without punishment. Only reluctantly has our society taken responsibility for causing the harm to them, to give them an opportunity to improve rather then just punish. The first special court for veterans was begun in Buffalo City Court in 2008, and now there are about 80 of them in the country. Tulsa has one that is highly regarded.
First the prosecutor must agree that the defendant should be allowed this special treatment. Sometimes the service must do some backtracking if the veteran has been given a discharge under other than honorable conditions, which is a common occurrence when a veteran is spiraling downward. That discharge needs to be undone so the veteran can receive the rehabilitation benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The judges in the originally-assigned court where the felony charges were filed as well as the veterans’ court must approve the transfer of the veterans’ charges to the veterans court. Sometimes the complaining witness must acceed to the transfer. There can be other pushes and pulls, arrangements with veterans affairs, rehabilitation facilities, balancing acts, family arrangements. The criminal defense attorney is the final source for those things.
A veteran with problems like these needs serious help. And not all veterans facing charges like these even get the option of transferring their serious changes to to a veterans court. Some face the full force of the criminal justice system. But, unlike the tens of thousands of others charged in the criminal justice system every year, a veteran has available sources from the government that help him to come out of it, if he is motivated and if he is lucky. As veterans, they have a history of accomplishing goals and thus have a higher prospect than the average citizen of addressing their problems and changing their behavior. It is certainly appropriate that the society for whom the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen fought should give special consideration to the veterans who incurred these problems in defense of their country. Ideally, someday every person, however they incurred their problems, may be given more opportunities to change themselves with more programs that are now so underfunded or nonexistent.