New information about Seal Beach shooting suspect Scott Dekraai has some wondering whether he will get off scot-free.
Court records indicate that Dekraai has suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since 2007. Medical documentation also suggests that contact with his ex-wife is incredibly stressful and unhealthy.
On Tuesday, the couple's bitter custody battle involving their 8-year-old son resulted in a restraining order. Is this enough of a trigger to successfully launch a PTSD defense?
The PTSD defense works in the following ways:
- To show that a defendant was "insane" when he committed a crime. He is therefore not liable.
- To demonstrate that the defendant acted out of instinct, as opposed to intent. This can lead to a lesser charge.
- As a mitigating factor at sentencing. This may lead to a lesser sentence.
When war veterans successfully use the defense, attorneys argue that extreme stress initiated a violent flashback. This suggests that the defendant was unaware of his surroundings or acted violently as a result of his military training.
Dekraai's PTSD doesn't seem to have a similar connection to the Seal Beach shooting.
While on a tugboat, he witnessed a fellow crew member become crushed under a rope, reports the Los Angeles Times. He also nearly lost use of his legs, and is now permanently disabled.
A jury would likely be skeptical that these events medically explain, or are connected to, Scott Dekraai's violent actions. His best hope is that the PSTD defense lessens any sentence he serves as a result of the Seal Beach shooting.
- Police Believe Custody Dispute Was Behind California Salon Massacre(Time)
- Status of the Insanity Defense (FindLaw)
- What Is the Insanity Defense? (FindLaw Blotter)