Guilty of…Attempted Suicide?

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Marine photo

Marines board a V-22 during training at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Now hear this: if you’re in uniform and suffering mental pain, you need to reach out for help. “Share your concern for their well-being,” their commanders are told. “Keep them safe.”

That is, unless, it all becomes too much…and you try to kill yourself. Then you could find yourself charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for committing an act prejudicial to good order and discipline in the ranks.

Michael Doyle of McClatchy Newspapers previews the case of Marine Private Lazzaric T. Caldwell, which comes before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces on Tuesday. Caldwell is an imperfect Marine whose cases raises important questions swirling around the military’s suicide epidemic.

“A bona fide suicide attempt, particularly one associated with mental illness, should not be treated as a crime under the `self-injury’ clause of Article 134, nor under any other statute within the UCMJ,” his lawyers argue.

Not so fast, counsel for the corps says. “There is no basis in law for this court to create a ‘suicide exception’ to crimes prosecuted under the Uniform Code,” they write in their legal brief. “That policy distinction is best left to the political branches.”

Just like budgetary, fiscal and tax policies.