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Guilty but Insane Due to PTSD

OPB | Dec. 11, 2009 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:09 p.m.

The case of former Oregon Guard member, Jessie Bratcher, may have set a precedent in Oregon. He was the first case of an Iraq veteran found guilty of murder, by reason of insanity due to PTSD. On Monday he was sentenced —  handed over to the state’s Psychiatric Review Board and scheduled to be moved from the Grant County Jail to the Oregon State Hospital. As he faces his future we ask: should post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq be a defense for murder?

In the summer of 2008 Jessie Bratcher’s fiance, Celena, told him she was pregnant, and that she had been raped. Jessie was angry. He says he put a gun in his mouth and considered suicide. He stayed up all night, cut Celena’s hair, made her walk a couple miles to the hospital when she started getting cramps, and then went away with her to Idaho to get her name tattooed on him and to watch a movie.

The next day Jessie awoke and went out with Celena. He bought a gun and went to the house of the man who allegedly raped Celena, Jose Medina. At first Jose denied knowing Celena. He then admitted to knowing her, and to having consensual sex with her. He apparently said he would take care of the baby if it was his. Jessie then shot him, six times. The final shot killed him.

The defense argued that Jessie experienced flashbacks from PTSD during his stressful discussion with Jose. He was, therefore, not in control of his actions. The jury agreed and Jessie was charged with murder by reason of insanity due to PTSD. Instead of years behind bars Jessie will now be moved to the Oregon State Hospital and assessed by the Psychiatric Review Board.

In this show we’ll hear from many players involved with this case, including Jessie Bratcher who is currently still in jail in Grant County. But we’ll also explore the bigger question: Can PTSD cause insanity which can make someone no longer in control of their actions — even the act of killing someone? What do you think of the charge of guilty but insane due to PTSD? Do you, or a loved one, suffer from PTSD? How does your experience inform your thoughts about this case?

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