A Troubled Marine's Final Fight

When his nation called, Marine Sergeant David Lindley answered. But when he came home hurting, his country let him down

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Peter Van Agtmael / Magnum for TIME

When his nation called, Marine Sergeant David Linley answered. But when he came home hurting, his country let him down.

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Linley spent nearly three years in the county lockup awaiting trial in the Illinois courts. (Their motto: Audi alteram partem, Latin for "Hear the other side.") During his trial, Linley's legal team argued that he was legally insane during the shoot-out. "This guy's not a criminal, and he's never been a criminal," says psychologist Don Catherall. "He was hurting in many ways by that point."

But Randi Zoot, the state-appointed psychologist in the case, concluded that while Linley was suffering from mental ailments when the shoot-out happened, "they were not of such severity as to substantially impair his ability to understand the wrongfulness of his actions." Rather, his "voluntary intoxication" that "impaired his judgment and loosened his impulse control" was to blame. His blood-alcohol content was 0.195% after the shoot-out, more than double the Illinois limit for driving. "If you go out and you get yourself drunk and you kill somebody while you're driving, just because you're very impaired by drinking isn't enough" to absolve guilt, Zoot says. That's true, she adds, even if Linley was trying to self-medicate his PTSD by drinking.

In September 2009, state judge Daniel Rozak found Linley not guilty of the two counts of attempted murder and "guilty but mentally ill" on the seven counts of firearms violations and damaging government property. (Linley and his family, on the advice of their lawyers, had waived a jury trial because of Rozak's pro-vet record.) While the judge said he gave veterans "a huge break" at sentencing, the length of the shoot-out and the number of shots fired required imprisonment "to deter others from committing the same offense." Although Linley hadn't hit anyone, he'd come "close enough" and couldn't control ricochets.

Linley, the judge added, didn't prove that he was "unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct as a result of a mental disease or defect." In a 21st century variation on World War II's catch-22, Linley was crazy--just not crazy enough. Rozak said that despite Linley's mental illness, "with proper treatment" he "was unlikely to reoffend."

The trouble is, Linley has never gotten that treatment. "I've seen a psychiatrist about every six months for 30 minutes, which is absolutely useless," he says. "I have received no treatment for PTSD at all--nothing." Linley says he sought an antidepressant in anticipation of a VA-sponsored prison PTSD-counseling group. Such counseling depresses Linley, so he wanted to get on an antidepressant for the sessions. He took Celexa, prescribed by a corrections psychiatrist, for about a year, awaiting the counseling. But the VA never came, prison officials say, because there weren't enough veterans seeking such help there. Linley says he stopped being "doped up" on the medicine, which made him "foggy and nauseous," once it became clear the VA wasn't coming.

A prison official, who declined to discuss the specifics of Linley's case because of privacy restrictions, said it's possible he is being seen only twice a year by a psychiatrist "because he's not behaving poorly, so there's no issue that has to be addressed by a psychiatrist."

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