In this unsigned opinion released yesterday, the Supreme Court appeared to recognize that the toll of combat stress on America’s war veterans could be a mitigating factor in sentencing decisions. The case, Porter v. McCollum, 08-10537, involves the conviction of a Korean War veteran, George Porter Jr., for the murder of his former girlfriend and her boyfriend in 1986. The Court overturned Porter’s death sentence, recognizing that his “combat service unfortunately left him a traumatized, changed man.”
Commentators noted that it is unclear whether the ruling will directly affect other criminal cases against defendants who claim to have experienced symptoms of combat stress. SCOTUSBlog contributor Lyle Denniston observed that parts of the Court’s opinion, which held that Mr. Porter was entitled to resentencing based on the failure of his trial counsel to present mitigating evidence at the penalty phase, “read as if the Justices did intend to speak more broadly.”
See the SCOTUSBlog write-up on the opinion here.