Lidelsen PTSD's indflydelse på
sanktionsvalget i tre straffesager i USA


Af advokat Claus Bonnez, Landsforeningen KRIM

22. juli 2010

I et udateret indlæg med overskriften "PTSD and Criminal Behavior" skrevet af Claudia Baker (MSW, MPH) og Cessie Alfonso (LCSW) nævnes tre eksempler på afgørelser fra domstole i USA, hvor personer angiveligt er blevet frifundet for straf for alvorlig kriminalitet under henvisning til, at det var konstateret, at de havde begået forbrydelserne som følge af, at de led af PTSD.

Indlægget er fundet på linket:

Hjemmesiden tilhører "Traumatic Stress Treatment Center, telefon: (626) 483-3896, E-mail:

De tre eksempler omtales i indlægget således:

  "...A direct link between a particular traumatic stressor and a specific crime can be indicated in three primary ways. First, crimes at times literally or symbolically recreate important aspects of a trauma. State v. Gregory (Maryland, 1979) provides an example of this type of case. Mr. Gregory, a Vietnam combat veteran, was charged with eight counts of kidnapping and assault after an incident at a bank in Silver Springs, MD on February 9, 1977. He entered the bank dressed in a suit with his military decorations pinned on it and armed with two M-16 automatic rifles, the weapon used by U.S. forces in Vietnam. He announced that he was not robbing the bank, let the women and children go, and took the remaining occupants hostage. Over a five-hour period, Mr. Gregory fired over 250 rounds of ammunition into the air and at inanimate objects before the police apprehended him without serious injury to anyone.

Mr. Gregory was initially convicted but the conviction was later overturned on appeal. The examining psychiatrist determined that Mr. Gregory had been one of very few survivors of an ambush in Vietnam, and the psychiatrist testified that the defendant's behavior in the bank was an attempt to recreate an ambush situation. Also, his behavior was viewed as an attempt at passive suicide in order to relieve the intense guilt he felt about having survived the ambush in Vietnam when so many others perished.

The second way that traumatic stressors can be linked to specific crimes is that environmental conditions similar to those existing at the time of the trauma can induce behavior (in particular, violent responses) similar to that exhibited during the trauma. People v. Wood (Illinois, 1982) is an example of this type of case. Mr. Wood was charged with attempted murder after shooting his foreman during a dispute. His prior diagnosis of PTSD and his history of combat duty in Vietnam were documented. Testimony and actual tape recordings were introduced that showed a similarity between the noises in the factory and noises Mr. Wood heard during combat, and it was argued that these conditions set the stage for Mr. Wood's violent behavior. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The final way that traumatic stressors can be linked to specific crimes is that life events immediately preceding the offense can realistically or symbolically force the individual to face unresolved conflicts related to the trauma. This creates a disturbed psychological state in which otherwise unlikely behaviors emerge. State v. Heads (Louisiana, 1981) is an example of this type of case. Mr. Heads, a Vietnam combat veteran with no prior criminal history, was convicted of second degree murder in 1978 after breaking into his sister-in-law's house and repeatedly firing a .45 caliber automatic pistol. One of the bullets killed the sister-in-law's husband. Mr. Heads had recently separated from his wife and had entered his sister-in-law's home in an attempt to locate her. Because he had experienced the loss of many friends in Vietnam, the severe emotional threat of losing his wife disrupted his psychological equilibrium and resulted in extremely violent behavior. In addition, the scene of the shooting in Louisiana was described as "Vietnam-like," which was seen as contributing to his violence. His conviction was overturned on appeal in 1981 when a jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. ..
I artiklen fremhæves det i øvrigt, at det er usandsynligt, at indsatte modtager den adækvate behandling for PTSD under frihedsberøvelsen. Faktisk kan fængselstilværelsen give tilbagefald. En længerevarende frihedsberøvelse vil formentlig alvorligt forværre PTSD symptomerne, og vil forringe personens funktionsniveau. Dette udtrykkes således: ".. It is unlikely that survivors receive the proper treatment for PTSD during incarceration. In fact, because prison life may retraumatize a person, a lengthy incarceration will likely seriously exacerbate PTSD symptoms and cause the person's level of functioning to deteriorate. .."