20 Sep Brockton Hunter Closes the Forum with The Echoes of War – Defending Psychologically Injured Veterans in Criminal Courts
Brockton D. Hunter, a formidable defense attorney, former U.S. Army Recon Scout, now focuses his busy criminal defense practice on defending psychologically injured veterans in the criminal courts. He also led the passage of Minnesota’s Veterans’ Sentencing Mitigation Act and briefed the Obama Presidential Transition team. Mr. Hunter’s two-hour presentation was the last presentation of the Forum, and kept every participant riveted, focused, and many in tears for the duration. Though Mr. Hunter provided a lot of hands-on information on how to defend veterans, that was not the essence or the takeaway from his presentation.
Mr. Hunter started with some very grim statistics, more than 2.6 million Americans have now served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and a study released recently estimated that at least up to 20%, approximately 500,000 of those veterans are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These veterans represent a voluntary and small military force that we are recycling for many tours, not just one year as it was in Vietnam. With the lack of acknowledgment, and therefore a lack of mental health treatment, the unfortunate result will be our troubled veterans flooding into our criminal courts.
Instead of some didactic trial training that can be obtained in any of the lawyers’ hometowns, Mr. Hunter spent his time getting the lawyers and doctors in attendance inside the hearts and minds of these heroes who suffer from what he calls “psychological casualties” or the veterans call a “soldier’s heart”.
Mr. Hunter told stories of how our veterans are trained to kill and why, he explained the months of training to ensure that the soldiers will use their weapons, and what not one or two, but many tours of duty do to a soldier. When many of these soldiers come home, they cannot adapt easily and how could they after they received small arms fire, knew someone killed or who was injured, handled human remains, or was personally responsible for the death of an enemy or non-combatant? A simple trip to the grocery store to grab some milk will not be the same ever again.
We know how to try a case, or how to mitigate a case, but now being armed with the insight to where these veterans are coming from, we can help, because we can truly empathize.
Iris Eytan is a Partner at Reilly Pozner LLP. She practices Criminal Defense with an emphasis in mental health defenses.