Long-Awaited, Much Needed Veteran's Criminal Defense Book To Be Released

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U.S. military veterans have often been on the receiving end of lengthy and harsh criminal sentences, based upon the reality that little has been published for those attorneys who defend them. Finally, the first book of its kind, produced by the Veterans Defense Project, has gone to the printer and will be available the first of the new year for judges, attorneys and expert witnesses.

This book is not a get-out-of-jail-free-card! It is a resource to help get the veteran the humane treatment needed.Max ClelandSen.- GeorgiaAdmin. - VAU.S. Military Monument Commission

Every day the headlines tell the story: more veterans are entering the criminal justice system. The rates are record breaking. The losses are significant. With every veteran that falls prey to the effects of PTSD or TBI or any of the other combat and non-combat related issues, these men and women lose another battle.

The time is ripe and the need is great for on-target data and materials that defense attorneys can put to immediate use. The Veterans Defense Project (headquartered in Milwaukee, MN) will be releasing the most important publication for those, who seek justice for men and women who have legitimate and quantifiable issues related to their service.

“The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court” is the result of a three-plus-year project, in which some 27 leading experts from a variety of fields present the latest, most up-to-date coverage of subjects needed to provide an adequate defense. Among these experts are Marko Sario (the first attorney to successfully make use of a PTSD-based insanity defense), Judge Robert T. Russell (godfather of the ‘Veteran’s Treatment Courts’), Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D. (considered the Pentagon’s go-to-guy, when it came to psychological injuries, such as PTSD, in war), Trista Matascastillo (who, along with her colleagues, provides a greater understanding of the woman veteran’s experience and how the difficulty of re-entering the civilian workforce, reconnecting with families, and dealing with unreconciled psychological and physical trauma can lead to contact with the criminal justice system), and Major Evan Seamone (U.S. Army and member of the Bars of the District of Columbia, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims) provides insight and guidance for attorneys preparing to defend combat veterans against themselves in criminal cases. The Table of Contents illustrates the depth of coverage and level of expertise on the part of contributors.

The data speaks for itself. The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, in a recent study, reported that 2.6 million Americans have now served in Iraq or Afghanistan and up to 20%, more than a half-million, are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That’s a staggering number. Untreated, many of these psychologically injured veterans are acting out in reckless, self-destructive and, sometimes, violent ways that bring them into contact with the criminal justice system.

Technically, the war in Iraq has ended. The Afghan situation has not come to a conclusion. With all of this “winding down,” large numbers of troubled vets are flooding into criminal courts. As Shad Meshad, of the National Veterans Foundation, has pointed out, time and time again, the “Tsunami is coming” – a time when the numbers become overwhelming and the courts and prisons and institutions can’t handle the challenge. Emerging research reveals a pattern of traumatized combat veterans surfacing in the criminal justice system following every major American conflict. Unfortunately, veterans of past conflicts were often treated quite harshly when their psychological injuries led them into criminal behavior, destroying lives and families, and missing opportunities for rehabilitation and redemption.

The Veterans Defense Project believes that we can do better this time around. The American criminal justice system has already begun preparing for the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans Treatment Courts are cropping up in nearly every state, veteran sentencing mitigation statutes are being enacted, and post-traumatic stress is increasingly being recognized as a basis for the insanity defense in certain, more extreme, cases. Much more needs to be done, however, to educate the justice system and make the changes necessary to be ready when the wave of troubled veterans hits.

“The Attorney’s Guide” is intended to be the first tool of its kind to instruct attorneys in all aspects of representing veterans facing criminal charges. From establishing an effective attorney-client relationship, accessing treatment and documenting military service, to pretrial negotiation, trial and sentencing, this publication will be the very first of its kind publication to fully address the criminal justice needs of our veterans. Judges and expert witnesses will find the publication an invaluable guide in understanding the critical nature of their role.

“The Guide” also goes beyond purely legal topics, to cover a wide range of relevant subjects, including the historical context of combat stress, sociological trends following wars, the current science and treatment of disorders common in troubled veterans, and understanding the military’s unique culture. Therefore, it is also a perfect publication for law libraries, as well as legal course reading and research.

Martin Sheen, a longtime veteran supporter and motion picture actor, says, "’The Attorneys Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court’” is a vital resource to serve the growing number of returning veterans who face charges stemming from service-related substance abuse to mental health issues. By using the criminal justice system as an intervention tool, we can connect our veterans to the treatment they earned through military service and ensure they do not fall through the cracks into chronic incarceration and homelessness."

Ed Finkel, of the “American Bar Association Journal,” interviewed lead editor, Brock Hunter (a defense attorney practicing in Minneapolis, MN). “’The Guide’ explains the mental health aspects of PTSD and traumatic brain injury so attorneys can understand the experts, and it contains a section on “cultural competency” to help them understand their clients. The book includes an extensive legal section covering how PTSD can be used as an insanity defense, to prove diminished capacity, in plea negotiations and in sentence mitigation,” Hunter was quoted as saying. Hunter recruited “all [his] heroes in the area of mental health, the law and veterans” to write sections of the book.

Currently, anyone who purchases “The Guide” will receive both an electronic form of the book, as well as the print version, once it comes off the presses in January 2014. The publisher, DC Press, (Orlando, FL) has been working with subscribers to get the chapters in fully searchable PDF format. The price of the publication provides both formats.

Editor, Brock Hunter and other contributors stand ready to conduct interviews on the substance of the publication. Please use the contact information in this release to arrange an interview.


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Dennis McClellan

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