Military Notebook: Military appeals court to consider suicide law

November 24, 2012 

On Tuesday the nation’s highest military appeals court will consider whether a suicide attempt by a military member should be a crime.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces will hear the case of Marine Corps Pvt. Lazzaric T. Caldwell, who was charged with a crime because he tried to kill himself, according to a McClatchy Newspapers story.

Caldwell, of Oceanside, Calif., pleaded guilty to “self injury without intent to avoid service” after he slit his wrists in January 2010 while stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He has since reconsidered his plea. The nation’s highest military appeals court is scheduled to take up his case Tuesday.

The court heard a similar case during the Gulf War, but Caldwell’s attorney believes times have changed, the story stated.

“The difference between then and now is that our understanding of suicide and suicide attempts has progressed quite a bit in the last 20 years,” said Caldwell’s attorney, Navy Lt. Michael B. Hanzel.

Caldwell received a bad-conduct discharge after also being convicted of larceny, driving without a license and possessing the drug known as spice.

The Marine Corps argues the suicide law promotes discipline, and it should be a political decision whether to change it.

“There is no basis in law for this court to create a ‘suicide exception’ to crimes prosecuted under the Uniform Code,” Marine Corps Maj. David N. Roberts wrote in a legal brief. “That policy distinction is best left to the political branches.”

Suicide has become a big issue in the military in recent years. In 2011, 301 known suicides accounted for 20 percent of all U.S. military deaths, the story stated. From 2001 until August of this year, the military has confirmed 2,676 suicides.

Macon chamber seeks to help military families in need

The Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce is once again seeking donations to help military families in need during the holiday season.

According to a release, first sergeants at Robins Air Force Base have identified 67 families with 200 children in need of help. Last year’s drive raised 1,700 food items, helping 85 families.

Canned goods can be dropped off at the chamber at 305 Coliseum Drive. Monetary donations can be used to buy perishable items such as hams and turkeys. Send checks payable to the Family-2-Family Foundation to the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 169, Macon, GA 31202, attention Audrey Connely.

For more information, contact Sarah Tabor at 621-2010.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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