Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Can’t Buy a Thrill

October 16th, 2012 · No Comments

Given that 2.4 million Americans have served in either Afghanistan or Iraq, there is bound to be a point at which some veterans who run afoul of the law will point to their combat experience as a mitigating factor. When lawyers cobble together such defenses, they will doubtless flip back to United States v. Tindall (PDF), a fascinating 1980 case in which a former Army helicopter pilot successfully argued that his combat trauma caused him to become a hashish smuggler.

The defendant, Michael Tindall, was accused of importing hashish from Morocco to Gloucester, Mass., over a six-month period. His lawyers contended that his post-traumatic stress disorder inured him to ordinary sensations, and so he was forced to try riskier and riskier endeavors just to feel some modicum of happiness:

At Tindall’s trial there was testimony that he “started to do what he called ‘crazy things.’ He would take LSD and jump into water, into the rivers and underground caves and would fly over the Ever­glades at a very low altitude to see if he could get what he called a rush or thrill”…The boat trip from Morocco to Gloucester represented “just another combat mission” to him.

It will be interesting to see whether contemporary juries are open to such explanations. Our collective view of the insanity defense has obviously narrowed over the past few decades.

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