Evidence regarding Ocampo’s culpability, particularly based on his mental state and military time--has not been fully explored. Further research into the court’s treatment of the relationship between military service and mental state when deciding a case should be necessary. The U.S. Supreme Court recently recognized the importance of a defendant’s military service, including his or her combat history or any related stress or mental health issues, to an effective presentation of mitigating evidence at sentencing in capital cases. Porter v. McCollum, 130 U.S. 447 (2009). Furthermore, in United States v. Brownfield, a federal judge used an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran’s potential PTSD as the basis of a downward departure from the federal Sentencing Guidelines—the general sentencing ranges for each crime. Even legislatures have actively proposed legislation that directs the court systems to address mental illness of Veterans in their courts. These actions demonstrate that courts are not only accepting, but encouraging evidence of mental illness in cases where the defendant served in the military.
Ocampo served in the marines from July 2006 until July 2010 and was deployed to Iraq for six months in 2008. His father stated that Ocampo was noticeably different after returning from combat. He said Ocampo expressed disillusionment and demonstrated a physical condition in which his hands shook and he suffered constant headaches. Although Ocampo initially responded to treatment, he then began drinking heavily and stopped taking medication. Ocampo’s personal life also changed dramatically after his military service, which is evidence of additional stress that could have affected his mental health. After Ocampo was discharged in 2010 and returned home, his parents separated. That same month, one of Ocampo’s friends, a corporal, was killed during combat in Afghanistan. Ocampo visited his friend's grave twice a week. His father lost his job and lived under a bridge before finding shelter in the cab of a broken-down big-rig he is helping repair.
Authorities currently overseeing Ocampo’s imprisonment also acknowledge his psychological issues. Ocampo is now held in isolation in an Orange County jail, wearing a protective gown, and monitored twenty-four hours a day. Jim Amormino, Orange County Sheriff’s Department representative, Jim Amormino, even stated that Ocampo “[o]bviously…has some psychological problems just by the nature of the crimes, so [the authorities] don't want him to hurt himself.”
Even with this information, Rackauckas stated that Ocampo exhibited no signs of mental illness and he will continue to explore the possibility of a death penalty conviction. It is comforting to know, however, that if this case ever goes to trial the court will likely consider the multitudes of evidence suggesting that Ocampo suffers from a mental illness when determining his sentence. Although I certainly do not believe that crime should be excused, violent prison atmospheres will only deepen the psychological trauma from which the ex-soldiers suffer. Hopefully the state legislatures will continue moving in a direction that both addresses the actions of and provides services for mentally ill individuals who commit crimes.
Blogger, Criminal Law Brief