Post-traumatic stress disorder, or "PTSD," is a condition that plagues our servicemen and women at an alarming rate. PTSD is a condition caused by severe mental and emotional stress brought on by either physical injury or severe psychological shock. The Wounded Warrior Project estimates that approximately 400,000 of the U.S.'s military personnel suffer from the condition. One such soldier is John Thuesen, a man currently awaiting execution in a Texas prison for the 2009 murder of his then girlfriend, Rachel Joiner, and her brother.
Thuesen served in Operation Iraqi Freedom more than a decade ago until he returned home to his native Texas, settling in College Station. Upon Theusen's return home, his family and friends noticed something was different about him. They said that he was depressed and drank too much. One former girlfriend testified at his trial that he became violent with her on several occasions. In 2008 Thuesen was briefly hospitalized after a failed suicide attempt. His family believed he needed more treatment, but, despite their concerns, the doctors at the Veterans Administration decided to send him home anyways. Six months after his release from the hospital, in March of 2009, Thuesen committed the murders for which he was eventually sentenced to death.
Some prosecutors around the country have chosen not to seek the death penalty in cases involving military servicemen and women that have shown a history of mental illness. Prosecutors in the trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the former soldier convicted of killing former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, did not ask for the death penalty, and Routh's history of mental instability was a key part of his defense. At Thuesen's trial, prosecutors emphasized his history of violence towards those around him, telling Judge Bryan that Thuesen's defense team provided jurors with all the information necessary to understand his past.
John Thuesen's appellate lawyers now argue that the attorneys who represented him at trial did not present adequate evidence to properly inform the jury of the effects that PTSD may have had on their client, a view shared by Brazos County District Judge Travis Bryan III. Thuesen's case is currently in front of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will have the final say in whether he will get a new trial and a chance at a lesser sentence.