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Fatal DUI Crash Not Clear CutDid Marines Traumatic Brain Injuries Play a Role?

What would appear to be an easy case of DUI manslaughter in the case of a Tampa fatal injury traffic accident, is not that easy, according to the defendants attorney. According to the events that unfolded in the accident that occurred in April 2010 when Scott Sciple drove the wrong way on a Tampa interstate and crashed head-on with another vehicle killing a 49 year old man identified as Pedro Rivera. According to court records Sciples blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit in the state of Florida.

This should make the fatal motorcycle accident an easy legal decision, but there are other circumstances that Sciple’s attorney believes contributed to the head-on collision that could have led to the events. Scott Sciple is a Marine known as Captain Scott Sciple, who served in both, Afghanistan and Iraq, earned three Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star for heroism. He is also a Marine that dug a mass grave for Iraqi civilians, came close to death from blood loss and suffered severe head trauma.

According to Sciple’s attorney John Fitzgibbons the traumatic head trauma and post traumatic stress disorder, caused the Marine to blackout in a dissociative episode the evening the fatal crash occurred. Sciple has pleaded not guilty in the fatal accident that happened after only arriving in Tampa two days prior to the head-on crash that occurred at approximately 4:00 a.m.

Attorney Fitzgibbons stated they believe that in the dissociative episode Sciple believed he was deployed and to further prove this, they show that a Marine Corps investigation that examined the case wrote an 860 page report with recommendations. In the report it states that the Marine Corps need to be comprehensive in evaluating and treating Marines with post traumatic stress disorder, especially those that have suffered brain injuries.

U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Col. John P. Crook, wrote in a letter dated September 26, 2010, investigators found there were vulnerabilities that are disturbing in the support that is given to combat veterans that suffer from PTSD. Col Crook went on to state that it is a grave error for the Marine’s to depend on self-diagnosis and self-reporting by Marine’s with a wounded mind.

The widow of Pedro Rivera, Carmen Rodriguez has stated to the Associated Press, she is broken-hearted that her husband has died, when she believes the Marines are partially at fault for not properly treating Sciple for PTSD or his brain injury. She does not understand why he was not properly treated and her husband had to die, leaving his wife and three stepchildren.

Attorney Fitzgibbons says it is the mental scars of combat that are to blame for the head-on collision and the detailed Marine investigation bears this out beginning with his decision after the September 11th attacks to remain in the Marines.

April of 2003 Capt. Sciple witnessed a bus full of bloody casualties and buried some of the Iraqi civilians, only to dig some of them up when their families came to claim them. The Marine was wounded in separate attacks in October 2006 and November 2007, in Iraq, while on patrol. Then in June 2009 Sciple was injured in an Iraqi rocket attack that caused him to bleed profusely and to lose consciousness, leaving rescuers to believe he was dead.

Approximately two weeks after the attack, Capt. Sciple’s command in Iraq became concerned that he could be suffering from PTSD after finding him removing sutures from his arm with a Swiss Army knife. When Scriple was assessed, the assessment showed that he had mild defects in both verbal learning and difficulty with attention. Two weeks later the Marine captain was given a neuropsychological assessment and declared cognitively fit for duty. This resulted in Sciple being sent to a California based wounded warrior battalion.

Sciple was suffering from dizzy spells, flashbacks and headaches by November 2009, which are PTSD symptoms and was drinking heavily. Family and friends say he told them to keep this quite as it could harm his Marine career and his chance to command a rifle company.

The Marines found Sciple ready for full duty and worldwide deployment in February of 2010 and within weeks was ordered to the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.

According to Col. Crook this disappointed Sciple, causing feelings of abandonment as he had never been to Tampa and wanted to return to his battalion in Afghanistan and this intensified the symptoms of PTSD. Scriple arrived for duty in Tampa April 23 and before reporting to his new duty station, two days later was involved in the fatal head-on collision.

Prosecutors refuse to comment on the case.

According to reports in calls to his father after the crash Sciple said he wished he had died in combat and does not understand why he did not die any of the times he was wounded. He wishes he had been, stating that it would have been honorable and an innocent man would not have been killed. Marine Captain Scott Sciple, who was born in Mobile Alabama and wanted to be a fighter pilot, but learned during officer candidate school he could not, due to a blood pressure problem, is awaiting trial where he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in Tampa jail’s psychiatric ward. There is at least one Marine Corps. Motorcycle accident lawyer who chooses to err on the side of the Marine.

Attorney Michael Ehline, of Ehline Law Firm PC of 4445 Eastgate Mall, #200 San Diego, CA 92121 USA +619.312.6050, says that we should always err on the side of the wounded warrior who keeps us free.