Neurologists affiliated with the U. S. military now estimate that up to 30% of troops who have been on active duty for 4 months or longer (in both Iraq and Afghanistan) are at risk of some form of disabling neurological damage. This is partly based on the knowledge that closed head injuries far outnumber the penetrative head injuries on which official statistics are based. So, while official figures put the number of U. S. troop casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan at 22,600 (as of November 2006), there may be up to 150,000 already suffering from TBI.
TBI’s insidious effects on behavior include (among many other problems) personality changes, violence, impaired self-control, and inappropriate sexual activity . . . a formula for criminal liability.
Because of these effects, and because of TBI’s prevalence among young Americans who have been stationed in Iraq, criminal-defense lawyers need to get on the cutting edge of TBI knowledge. We’re not there yet.
The Center for American and International Law is presenting a program on The Mind and Criminal Defense next week in Plano; the focus appears to be development rather than trauma in adults, but there is a presentation on Traumatic Brain Injuries at Birth.