Marine Corps Pvt. Lazzaric T. Caldwell slit his wrists and spurred a legal debate that’s consuming the Pentagon, as well as the nation’s top military appeals court.
On Tuesday, the court wrestled with the wisdom of prosecuting Caldwell after his January 2010 suicide attempt. Though Caldwell pleaded guilty, he and his attorneys now question his original plea and the broader military law that makes “self-injury” a potential criminal offense.
The questions resonate amid what Pentagon leaders have called an “epidemic” of military suicides.
“If suicide is indeed the worst enemy the armed forces have,” Senior Judge Walter T. Cox III said, “then why should we criminalize it when it fails?”
For 40 minutes Tuesday morning, Cox and the four other members of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces sounded deeply ambivalent about the complexities involved in prosecuting members of the military who try to kill themselves. While several judges sounded skeptical about the government’s claim that Caldwell’s actions brought discredit to the Marine Corps, judges also sounded hesitant about ruling out prosecution altogether.
TVNL Comment: This is an insane policy. These are troubled men and women who so often are spurred toward suicide by their military experience. What a primitive approach to their difficulties.