This post is about three shootings that took place in Altoona, Pennsylvania, a town less than an hour away from where I grew up. Raymond Williams, a retiree, was shot outside his home while checking his mail on April 6th  by a man whom he had never known, Nick Horner. Nick had recently returned from Iraq less than a year ago but as a different man says his mother. Nick Horner gunned down a High School student as well as a wounding a woman at a store. Nick Horner was on the receiving end of a combat action badge and many other awards for serving his time in Iraq but was not looking to receive two first degree murder charges and a possible death sentence. 
     "He wasn't my little boy anymore" says Nick's mother. After returning from Iraq, Nick would rarely leave his home and his wife stated that she would often find him crying in their basement. The family felt Nick had seen and done things none of them have ever had the chance to do. The remaining question is however, did the Iraq war come home with Nick that day?
      Horner was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning home from Iraq and now his PTSD is going to be used as a criminal defense in the court room. There are more than 90,000 current serving  troops and 200,000 administrative veterans diagnosed with PTSD. The illness has been used as a criminal defense in the past but now the courts are facing a new challenge, should PTSD be allowed as a defense for murder. 
     On the morning of April 6th, Nick Horner dropped his kids off at school and headed to the bar where he drank two full pitchers of beer before leaving to rob a subway. Horner beat on the back door of the restaurant demanding to be let in, failing, he shot out the utility box and cut the electricity to the building. Once inside, Nick killed subway clerk and high school student Scott Garlick and injured another worker, Michelle Petty. He stole about $130 dollars and once Horner fled the scene he shot and killed Raymond Williams several blocks away only for his car keys to escape. 
      Nick Horner's attorney claimed Nick was not evil at all but rather he was just "sick." Horner was taking  a heavy amount of prescription drugs prescribed for his PTSD at the time. The ruling eventually decided against Horner as PTSD was not sufficient evidence for murder in this case. 
     Let me start by saying I was very concerned this topic after reading this article. These events occured within 60 miles of my home and innocent members of society were killed. The biggest fear factor for me was learning this could happen anywhere at anytime. 
     In my opinion PTSD should not be a criminal defense in ANY court case. I feel that people are responsible for their own actions. Now I do not know what PTSD feels like or what the thinking processes involved are but I believe people should be strong and willing enough to overcome any initial thoughts of killing. I definitely side with the court on this case and I would love to hear your opinions! Feel free to comment in the space below. 


"We haven't begun to see the wave of all this."

  -William Brown, Expert on PTSD criminal cases

 


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