Two servicemen on military Death Row had their sentences overturned this summer, reports the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). U.S. Air Force veteran Andrew Witt and Vietnam War veteran Robert Fisher both had attorneys who failed to present mitigating evidence of mental health issues and trauma in their initial trials.
Witt was sentenced in 2005 for murdering an airman and his wife. After a three-week capital resentencing trial, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces imposed a life sentence, according to DPIC, which cited the La Crosse Tribune.
Fisher, who had received a Purple Heart from President Lyndon B. Johnson, was convicted of the 1980 murder of his girlfriend. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania overturned his death sentence and granted a new trial.
In both cases, attorneys failed to present evidence that their clients suffered from head trauma or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD can cause serious psychological after-affects for years after a soldier returns from combat, according to DPIC.
In Witt’s case, the attorney failed to present mitigating evidence that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury just four months before the murders. Witt’s death sentence was the first one handed out to an airman since 1992.
In Fisher’s first trial, his attorney failed to present the mitigating evidence of trauma and other mental health issues Fisher experienced due to his service in Vietnam.
Twelve veterans have had their death sentences reduced to life in prison, while four veterans in military prisons are still on the U.S. military death row.