Dieter, Richard C.
"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 … 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 … This report is not a definitive study of all the veterans who have been sentenced to death in the modern era of capital punishment. Rather, it is a wake-up call to the justice system and the public at large: As the death penalty is being questioned in many areas, it should certainly be more closely scrutinized when used against veterans with PTSD and other mental disabilities stemming from their service. Recognizing the difficult challenges many veterans face after their service should warrant a close examination of the punishment of death for those wounded warriors who have committed capital crimes. Moreover, a better understanding of the disabilities some veterans face could lead to a broader conversation about the wide use of the death penalty for others suffering from severe mental illness" (p. 2, 3). This report provides this information. These sections follow an executive summary: introduction; scope of the problem—veterans sentenced to death, prevalence of PTSD and other disorders, and mental illness, PTSD, and the death penalty; areas of concern in capital cases—veterans already executed (some individual profiles), condemned veterans—not executed (a few profiles), and future cases; what can be done; and conclusion.
“This report focuses on two issues deserving greater public attention: The death penalty is being mainly driven by a small minority of counties that use it aggressively, while most counties in the U.S. do not resort to it at all. These high-use counties do not shoulder their own burdens, but instead shift the costs to every taxpayer, many of whom are unaware of the exorbitant costs or the unfavorable record of reversals and unfairness” (p. 2). Sections following an executive summary are: introduction to how 2% of the counties in the United States produce the majority of capital executions; the death penalty by county; a geographical snapshot of the death penalty; the 2% national death penalty; a few counties dominate within states; costs borne by all; legal failings in representative counties; conclusion; and a list of the top 2% counties.