Moral Low Ground


The Sad Case of Courtney Lockhart: The Army Made Him a Killer. PTSD Made Him a Murderer. A Jury Voted for Life. A Judge Gave Him Death.

courtney-lockhart-mug-shotLast November, former US Army soldier and Iraq war veteran Courtney Lockhart was found guilty of murdering 18-year-old college student Lauren Burk. The Alabama jury recommended life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for Lockhart, no doubt influenced by his wartime service and the mitigating circumstances relating to severe psychological problems he suffered as a result of intense combat in Iraq. Prosecutors sought the death penalty, but the jury unanimously decided to spare the broken 26-year-old’s life. But a judge has nullified the jury recommendation and sentenced Lockhart to death by lethal injection.

Back in November, the Daily Beast reported on the hellish existence that was Lockhart’s 16-month combat tour in the Sunni Triangle, the deadliest part of Iraq at the time he was deployed there in 2004. Incessant sniper fire and roadside bombs devastated his brigade. Firefights were a regular occurrence. Mortars crashed through the roofs of rooms he was in– not once, but twice. Sixty-four soldiers in his brigade never made it home alive, including Lockhart’s best friend. On another occasion, he had to stand by and watch as three of his buddies were burned alive when a mortar round landed inside a military vehicle. “We couldn’t do anything,” Lockhart recalled, “the fire was too hot. We just had to wait. Those guys, there was nothing left of them but their dog tags.”

Soldiers from his Ft. Carson, Colorado brigade who were lucky enough to make it home often suffered from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other ailments. But the military’s macho warrior culture and a broken Army health care system prevented them from getting the help they so desperately needed. No less than 12 soldiers from his brigade have been arrested for murder or attempted murder. One of them shot his wife five times in the face before killing himself with a shotgun.

Lockhart exhibited all the signs of PTSD. He suffered from nightmares, and to make matters worse, his Ft. Carson barracks were located by an artillery range. The explosions often sent him ducking for dear life under his bed. “I used to go to sleep looking at the ceiling thinking, ‘OK, a mortar is going to come through tonight and kill me,'” he told the Daily Beast.

To cope, Lockhart started smoking pot. But he was soon busted, and instead of recognizing that he was self-medicating to relieve his PTSD he was punished. After an altercation in which he threatened to kill two fellow soldiers, Lockhart was unceremoniously booted from the Army without the customary mental health screening.

He returned home to Alabama, where his mother says he was “shell shocked.” The nightmares continued. He carried a gun with him everywhere he went, a common occurrence among returning vets suffering from PTSD. Then one day he carjacked Lauren Burk, an 18-year-old Auburn University freshman on her way to the library to study. He forced her to drive out of town, where he told her to take off her clothes. A struggle ensued, Lockhart shot her dead, and then embarked on a dark string of armed robberies before being caught by police.

The jury who convicted Courtney Lockhart admirably decided to show leniency after hearing about his hellish days in Iraq. Of course, PTSD is no excuse for murder. But it certainly was a contributing factor that the jury rightfully considered when recommending life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. But in Alabama, unique among the 35 states that practice the state-sanctioned murder known as capital punishment, judges have the power to overturn sentencing recommendations of juries in capital cases. Shockingly, Alabama judges have done this 107 times. In 92% of those cases, jury recommendations of life imprisonment were overruled and replaced with death sentences.

One also cannot overlook the fact that this case occurred in Alabama, with a black, male perpetrator and a white, female victim.

Regardless of your position on capital punishment, the fact that judges can ignore the will of juries ought to shock the conscience of any justice-minded individual.

Courtney Lockhart was failed twice; once by the Army that turned him into a killer and then failed to take care of a wounded warrior, and then by the judge who ignored the jury’s recommendation and sentenced him to die. As David Phillipps wrote in the Daily Beast, “Lauren Burk did not deserve to die. But, given what happened, neither does Courtney Lockhart.”

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  1. Allison BoothJuly 12, 2011 at 8:41 pmReply

    This is so sad on so many levels. When is society going to face the fact that veterans from Vietnam ear or now are no different. They are normal human beings placed into abnormal circumstances. The government have failed to assist the emotional and spiritual and mental health of these trained killers. Kill or be killed is why they have made it home alive, they survived hell. It is irresponsible & tragic that he was discarded without going through intense treatment for PTSD. The government needs to take responsibility for the deaths of people killed by government trained soldiers until they can provide a comprehensive treatment plan to deprogram them. It is not acceptable that this man is going to be put to death because some Alabama Country Redneck Judge decides to overrule the jury. Is this about the color of his skin I wonder? I am sure it is! Freaking backward redneck racist mentality, this man has more courage and bravery than all the judges in the state put together and he deserves to live. I am outraged by the lack of compassion and understanding for PTSD. Our government has cultivated a decade of our youth with PTSD by sending them into combat. Don’t throw them under the bus for doing what they were trained to do, help them.

    • Randi NewmanJuly 23, 2011 at 8:52 amReply

      I absolutely agree. It sure seems that the Army especially can’t medboard or chapter out these soldiers fast enough. They don’t seem to care that there are mitigating circumstances to the soldiers self-medicating tendencies. It seems that the Denver VA has a viable program to treat PTSD. It is a 7 week treatment program with aftercare. We need to invest more in nation’s military. Please keep this link going.

      • Japonika RileyAugust 15, 2011 at 4:52 pmReply

        why don’t you guys get your facts straight before voicing an opinion that’s obviously wrong. He was not sick. He was thrown out of the military – Dishonorable Conduct – for hitting one of his superior officers. Lauren Burk was not his first victim, but thanks to our justice system, she was the last. This man deserves to rot in jail and think everyday about the choice he made to kill an innocent girl that was going to study at the library… give me a break people!! I wonder if you’d feel sorry for him if it had been your daughter or sister. He got death and he deserves every bit of it. Thank God for the Auburn Judge for having the strength to overthrow a jury decision… in my opinion he should be seen as a hero and not as a Red Neck as you, Alison, called him. I hope you never have to go through something like the Burk family had to go through. This country always gives more rights to the criminal than to the victim. When is that going to stop? This is exactly why we have so much crime. They know how to hide behind the “insanity:” plea… enough already with these criminals. It’s time we give more value to the victim’s rights!

        • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 5:01 pmReplyAuthor

          Here we have another pseudo-patriot, someone who probably spouts off about their love of freedom, liberty and the American way… which includes adherence to the rule of law, while publicly advocating flushing the rule of law down the toilet when it suits him. “Thank God for the Auburn Judge for having the strength to overthrow a jury decision”…. you said it, Mr. Riley. So you want to live in a country where judges can piss all over the rule of law and overrule juries whenever they want? May I suggest North Korea, Iran or some other totalitarian country for you to live in. I don’t know about you, but I support the Constitution and the rule of law.

          • john smithAugust 15, 2011 at 5:05 pm

            you need to get on medication and change your profeswsion.
            You are lousy at what you do.

          • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 5:07 pmAuthor

            Again, this is NOT my profession. I am an author, a social justice advocate and a socialist activist. This is my PERSONAL blog, which, by the way, has been read by 360,000 people in more than 200 countries and territories. I thank you for being one of them.

          • john smithAugust 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm

            ok your a lousy blogger too.
            Also I should say Japonika is 1000% right…
            Btw do u have a daughter?

          • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 5:14 pmAuthor

            I do not. But I do have a sister, 4 nieces and a life partner and I would not want anyone to ever receive the death penalty, no matter what crime they commit. Murder is wrong, no matter whether it is committed by a criminal or by the state. Why do we kill people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong? Or, in language you’d probably understand better:
            “You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” ~Jesus Christ, Matthew 5:38

          • J. DerringerDecember 10, 2013 at 5:40 am

            Brett Wilkins, your interjection to insult Mr. Riley is as inappropriate as your biased account of this murder. It appears to me you looked no further at it than your reading Phillips’ story — it’s nearly identical to his, just reworded.

            You write that one cannot overlook that the killer was black, the victim white, the place Alabama. You play the race card? You damned idiot. How dare you. It appears that you failed to study the sentencing issues relevant to this case. So did Phillips. That, or one or both you learned why the judge overruled the jury’s recommended sentence, but you cheated and chose not to mention them because the issue would then weaken your argument that the Court should have gone easy on Lockhart.

            To Lockhart’s benefit during the trial, the jury was prevented from hearing about Lockhart’s military crime and more importantly about the string of robberies he committed after murdering Lauren Burk. It was especially the latter that influenced the judge — and the appelate panel — that the death penalty was appropriate. This was a first-degree murder, Wilkins, a capital murder. A jury’s recommended sentence is NOT the rule of law. You’re so blatantly, naively wrong on this, yet you tack on “redneck” and charge racism based on absolutely nothing but what you’d like to believe is the judge’s reason for his ruling. The race card indeed, you narrow-thinking neophyte.

            So what would you expect Lockhart and his lawyers to say by way of an excuse, except for a PTSD defense? Where could they possibly turn except to PTSD? Do you even realize that you wrote simply what Lockhart himself said were his PTSD-related problems and symptoms? Are you naive enough to state as fact that he dove under his bed when he heard artillery? You don’t indicate that you know for a fact that he had any PTSD problems at all, or whether or not he was indeed screened for such. Neither did your (sole) source Phillips. But you’ll take the word of the repeat criminal — and his mother. Good grief.

            What a naive, uninformed, lazy, biased writer you are. “Rule of law.” You haven’t the vaguest perspective about criminal law and punishment, nor what is in the best interest of society. “Piss” and “redneck” and “racist” and “Alabama” — this is your speed. How old are you? Twenty?

          • Brett WilkinsDecember 10, 2013 at 8:08 amAuthor

            I have never used the word “redneck” or “racist” in either the article or my commentary. I have lived in Alabama; my family still does. One would think a truth-seeking individual such as yourself would be more truthful.

        • john smithAugust 15, 2011 at 5:03 pmReply

          You are 110% right Japonika

          • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 5:05 pmAuthor

            Correct me if I am mistaken, but in math class I learned that something cannot be more than 100% right.

        • john smithAugust 15, 2011 at 5:14 pmReply

          japonika this bleeding liberal activist says 360,000 people read his blog.

          I guess there are at least 360,000 other morons, like him…

    • john smithAugust 15, 2011 at 3:26 pmReply

      you’re an idiot.

      A poor innocent girl dies because of a sick weak piece of crap…

      What if it was your daughter, sister or friend.

      This world has so many ignorant people and you are on the top of that list.

      • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 4:56 pmReplyAuthor

        If it was my daughter, sister or friend, it still would not change the fact that the Lockhart was not completely to blame for his actions. The army taught him how to kill. His combat experience in Iraq resulted in his post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s a DISEASE, in case you didn’t know. Then, instead of giving him the treatment he needed, the army gave him the boot because he was self-medicating with marijuana to dull the torment of his PTSD. The jury of his peers that heard the murder case understood all of this. That’s why they recommended a sentence of life without parole, a reasonable sentence, the sentence I would want (at the very maximum) if it was my daughter who was murdered. Do you think it is right for a judge to ignore the will of the jury and sentence Lockhart to death, especially considering all the mitigating circumstances in the case? Maybe you’re happy that Lockhart was executed. That’s fine. It’s barbaric, but it’s still fine. But you can’t sit there and tell me that you’re happy that a judge overruled the jury in handing down that death sentence. You do support democracy and the rule of law, don’t you? Or are you one of those right-wing reactionaries who wrap yourself in the flag and wax patriotic about liberty and freedom while vociferously advocating the denial of liberty and freedom to those with whom you do not agree or find distasteful?

        • john smithAugust 15, 2011 at 4:59 pmReply

          you should not be a reporter. you are irresponsible.

          All of you media peopl are the same. You don’t even know half of the facts..
          Do your homework, before you write your limited articles

          • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 5:04 pmAuthor

            Why the personal insults? I am NOT a reporter and this is NOT a news site. It is a BLOG. Do you know what that means? It means that I, as an American exercising my First Amendment right to freedom of speech, post commentary on social issues from my point of view. I love it how people like you, who claim to be patriotic Americans, would revoke free speech rights from those with whom you simply do not agree.

      • curious case of benjamin buttonJune 26, 2013 at 11:46 amReply

        It is a race issue and a sex issue….

    • Rob AndersonAugust 15, 2011 at 7:22 pmReply

      Allison why must everything be about the color of a person’s skin in this country??? A man should be judged by the strength of his character – not the color of his skin!!!!! You talk about people being placed in abnormal circumstances, but the fact is – we have a voluntary military. My grandfather was drafted during the Korean War and was held as a prisoner of war for 3 years. That was after valiantly fighting on the 33rd parallel and holding the Chinese from breaking through the line. He held off the enemy until he ran out ammo, including the ammo in his side arm. He came home without knowing that PTSD existed. He married his sweetheart who wrote him letters while he was held as a prisoner of war. He raised a family and worked hard for many years. He never murdered a freshman in college as she was going to study for a class. The difference is, this is a man who attends church every week and who spends most of his free time supporting veteran organizations. This man is a patriot who loved his country so much he was willing to give the ultimate sacrifice.
      My brother is currently enlisted in the Army and he served both in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his tour in Afghanistan he was stationed in the Korengal Valley which you might recognize from the movie Restrepo. My brother watched the enemy sit just across the border in Pakistan and take pot-shots at them because they could not engage across the border. He watched as an 18 year old soldier from his unit was killed alongside him. In spite of all he has been through, he managed to come home, raise a family and will graduate college in the fall.
      We, as a society, like to shift the blame and do not have the stomach to hold criminals responsible for their actions. When a person chooses to take away from a beautiful young girl her God-given right to life, we as a community have a responsibility to keep him from doing that to someone else. I totally support the “redneck, backward country judge from Alabama”, I only wish I could be there when they put this murderer to death.

      • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 7:29 pmReplyAuthor

        So, you support the subversion of the rule of law by a rogue judge who ignored not only the jury’s decision but also Lockhart’s service to his country and army, an army that abandoned him when he needed it most? I only hope that you never have to face a jury trial in which a rogue judge overrules the jury’s decision. Surely then you would cry “injustice!”

        Also, you seem to ignore or be unaware of the fact that there still is a draft in this country, an economic draft in which the poor (mostly people of color or from the relatively poor Southern states) feel as if the military is their best road to a better life. You don’t see that many young folks from affluent families rushing off to join the service, do you?

        Your grandfather was a very brave man who no doubt felt he was serving his country in Korea. He is very lucky to not have suffered any adverse effects from his harrowing ordeal. But tens of thousands of Korea vets were afflicted with PTSD, just as veterans of every war have been. You just didn’t hear or read about it back then. IN World War I they called it “shell shock.” In the Civil War it was called “nostalgia.” The list goes on and on, and so does the suffering…

        • john smithAugust 15, 2011 at 8:03 pmReply

          As said you are a bleeding liberal who has no backbone.

          • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 10:54 pmAuthor

            Only the weak believe in violence, Mr. Smith.

        • Rob AndersonAugust 15, 2011 at 8:13 pmReply

          You really should not make assumptions Brett. I never said my grandfather did not suffer any adverse effects. My father told me stories about how he had to wake my grandfather up from across the room because he would wake up fighting. Yet he was still able to make a personal decision not to commit murder.
          In response to your comment about the draft, was Lockhart drafted or did he volunteer??

          • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 10:52 pmAuthor

            My assumptions were based 100% on your comment above. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

    • MaddieJanuary 27, 2014 at 2:16 pmReply

      This reply if for the absolutely PATHETIC article full of half truths and piss poor excuses for yet another killer crying that It’s not my fault…No really! It’s NOT!!” It is also for the racist, Allison Booth that is throwing slurs around and unfairly questioning the integrity of a brave Judge who did NOTHING wrong!!!
      It is a SHAME that every single time that I read about cases involving black suspects and white victims, I have to immediately begin reading about how the suspect/ convicted is NOT at fault, how the sentence is unfair, how the race of the victim is the reason for everything involved from the arrest to the sentence!!! Shame on the lot of you! It is SICKENING!!!

      • Brett WilkinsJanuary 27, 2014 at 4:13 pmReplyAuthor

        I believe the central assertion of my article does not involve race, but rather illness contracted as a result of war– PTSD.

  2. john smithAugust 15, 2011 at 1:57 pmReply

    your liberal reporting makes me sick.
    Get a life.
    Lockhart deserves to suffer day by day, and then death.

  3. JohnAugust 15, 2011 at 7:43 pmReply

    Hey Brett,
    You know what you are: you’re the biggest hypocrite socialist I’ve ever seen. It seems like you don’t have anything else to do than writing this stupid articles. Like the other guy mentions before, Do you have a daughter?, No you don’t. So, how can you write about something you don’t even understand. Look you socialist, years ago something a very similar thing happened to our family, a crazy fuck like lockhart assaulted my sister. She was shot three times and she’s been in a wheelcahir for the last 25 years ( but well what do you know about that you hipocrite). You know what we did: We took the law in our hands, we took care of that criminal and I’m proud to say it. An eye for an eye like you mentioned before. I think you should grow upo and get your act together. Get a job

    • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 10:38 pmReplyAuthor

      I, and Jesus, if you care about what the Bible says (I don’t), did not say “an eye for an eye.” The whole passage is “You have heard it said ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.'” (Matthew 5:38).

      Here’s a better quote from a more recent man of peace:
      “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” ~Gandhi.

      Your barbaric desire for revenge is deplorable and a sign of a weak and unintelligent man. Did you ever stop to THINK about the violence you’re advocating? Did you ever stop and THINK about why the United States is the only country in the Western world that still practices the barbaric death penalty? The whole civilized world looks down on us for our barbarism. You, dear reader, are on the wrong side of history and I suspect you may be intelligent enough to realize it. I suspect that deep inside you are aware that the worldwide trend, even in the US, is toward abolition and that in 50 years it is highly unlikely that we will still have the death penalty. People will look back and shake their heads at folks like you the same way we now look back in disgust on those who advocated slavery and keeping women in the kitchen.

      And I don’t need to “get a job,” like you advised. I am doing just fine, thank you. I own my own house in San Francisco and will be pursuing my master’s degree in social justice shortly.

      On that note, I shall thank you for reading Moral Low Ground and bid fare-thee-well. People like you stagnate the progress of humanity, and I have no time for stagnation.

      • JohnAugust 17, 2011 at 1:29 pmReply

        Like I said, GET A JOB, you lousy hipocrite. I like the article that was sent to you by the Army SGT in Aug. 17th. Get your act together. Lockhart is a murderer, he planned everything and poor Lauren Burk was the victim. By the way I’m a I.E. and have an MBA, own two homes, three companies and I’m 50 years old. GET A JOB

    • Brett WilkinsAugust 15, 2011 at 10:57 pmReplyAuthor

      I don’t care if a maniac rapes, butchers and eats my dearest relatives, including my yet-to-be born or adopted children. Under NO circumstances would I EVER support the death penalty. Only barbarians believe in capital punishment. That is why EVERY country in the Western world has abolished the death penalty, and one day the US will join the civilized world and follow suit. You ought to be ashamed to live in a country that is in the execution fraternity along with Iran, North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia and the Taliban. Some company that is…

  4. Louise lipshuckAugust 15, 2011 at 10:07 pmReply

    Brett, you are an ignorant liberal. Every human being has a choice. Lockhart made the choice to end an innocent girl’s life. May he rot in hell and the Burk family should personally fill his veins with the poison

    • WayneAugust 16, 2011 at 7:17 pmReply


      I have read all of your comments on this subject and I really do not understand your position, other than “No death penality”. Courtney Lockhart is responsible for taking a innocent girls life by his own choice. He actions effected many people in all different facets. The time, money and pure hell and torment this man caused by his actions were his responsibility alone.
      The Jury found him guilty of Capital Murder and gave the Judge a recommendation of life in prison. The judge(according to the law) has the right to overturn the jury’s recommendation and give the death penalty, which he did because of the crimes that were commited before he killed Lauren and after He killed Lauren. His actions caused these results and Courtney lockhart is responsible. You may have the right to dissagree with the death penalty but you should understand that Lauren Burk was the victim. Any person who takes another person’s life except in self-defense should be prepared to have there life taken away. Japonika Riley could not have said it better.

      • Brett WilkinsAugust 16, 2011 at 7:33 pmReplyAuthor

        My position is the same as that of every other nation in the civilized world: Capital punishment is a crime against humanity. Why do we kill people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong? It makes no sense at all, except from a base, animalistic revenge standpoint.

        I feel sorry for you barbarians with your revenge mentality. You are aware that the United States is the ONLY country in the Western world that practices capital punishment, aren’t you? And that like slavery, female disenfranchisement and banning same-sex marriage, future Americans will look back on the barbarism of capital punishment and shake their heads in disbelief that our society allowed such cruel and unusual punishment? You are, surely, aware that you are on the wrong side of history…

  5. Rob AndersonAugust 16, 2011 at 9:07 pmReply

    Brett you are really good at side-stepping questions and quoting certain passages of scripture to try to support your opinion. In reading your posts, you obviously ignore many other passages, so instead of arguing opinions with you, I want you to look at the facts.
    First of all, you speak about Lockhart having served his country and how 64 soldiers in his brigade did not make it home. During the Korean War, there were more than 7,000 combat deaths in the 2nd Infantry Division alone, the highest total among any modern U.S. Division in any war. The 2nd Infantry Division was the division my grandfather served in. You stated that the Army made Lockhart a killer, so explain to me why my grandfather’s actions after being released from a Chinese prison camp were not the same as Lockhart’s?
    Secondly, you try to explain away Lockhart’s admitted drug use by calling it “self-medicating.” Unless you live under a rock, you know that possession of marijuana is a criminal offense. For possession of one kilogram (2.2 lbs.) or less the crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If a person possesses any amount over one kilogram they have then committed a felony, punishable by 1 – 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Lockhart certainly deserved to be punished even if his only offense had been marijuana use, because that’s why we have laws in the first place.
    Further, you asked me if I support the subversion of the rule of law by a rogue judge who ignored not only the jury’s decision but also Lockhart’s service to his country. Let me remind you that in your first post you stated: “But in Alabama, unique among the 35 states that practice the state-sanctioned murder known as capital punishment, judges have the power to overturn sentencing recommendations of juries in capital cases.” The key word here is “RECOMMENDATION.” Therefore, as you pointed out, in Alabama the judge takes into consideration the jury’s RECOMMENDATION on sentencing and then makes a ruling. If your readers would actually like to research the Alabama law for themselves, they can see the following:
    HARRIS v. ALABAMA CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA No. 93-7659. Argued December 5, 1994 – Decided February 22, 1995.
    Lastly, I want to discuss your statement about an “economic draft’ and your stereotyping our military as “poor (mostly people of color or from the relatively poor Southern states).” You stated these poor, Southern people of color “feel as if the military is their best road to a better life” and therefore this somehow constitutes an “economic draft.” The bottom line is, Lockhart VOLUNTEERED to join the Army. He was not forced to sign up. With all the minority scholarships and grants available, I’m sure if he had applied himself, he could have done very well, even in poor, backward Alabama. He also could have used the money he earned in the Army to move to your neighborhood, but he moved back to what you view as the poverty-stricken south, which was another one of his personal choices. As to your generalization of our military as poor, Southern people of color, I give you one name – Pat Tillman. This hero’s name is given to you because he is the most well-known, but he is just one example of a huge number of heroes just like him in our military.
    So in conclusion, I hope your readers can see that scores of other military veterans have served their country with honor both during their service and then after they returned home. These veterans have also lived honorably while simultaneously dealing with the trauma and stress that they bring back with them from combat. They served and lived honorably while receiving the same treatment from the government that Lockhart received. I hope your readers see that many served during a time of war where thousands were dying all around them, but they

    • Brett WilkinsAugust 17, 2011 at 6:49 amReplyAuthor

      I don’t live under a rock, I live in San Francisco, where possession of marijuana is NOT a criminal offense and where many citizens (myself included) are legally allowed not only to use but also to grow cannabis. But I will concede that it is against military regulation to use it, and also against the law in most of the country. Of course, if you knew the history of marijuana prohibition you would see that the reasons for outlawing the harmless plant (anti-immigrant racism and corporate interests, namely the timber industry) were far more sinister than the plant itself… but I digress…

      Look, you’re right about Alabama law and the judge’s actions being completely legal. You’re also right about Lockhart volunteering. And you’re right about the vast majority of military veterans being very different from Lockhart. I concede that you’re correct on most every point you make. And I should not have called the judge “rogue”; he was merely applying existing state law.

      But where the disconnect comes in is in your ‘black and white’ Bushy worldview. Why do conservatives seem so painfully unable to digest complex situational nuances and subtlety inherent in cases such as this? Your comments on marijuana, Alabama law and the economic draft are cases in point. I don’t know you, but based upon your comments, you seem like the type of person who, if this were 1860, would defend prosecuting people who helped slaves run away because the Fugitive Slave Act was “the law” and the runaway slave and those who helped him were “criminals.” This might sound like an extreme example, but that’s exactly what you’re doing. Every reasonable person knows that marijuana prohibition is wrong and ineffective. Every Western nation in the world has abolished the death penalty. Every social activist is aware of the economic draft. Denying that it exists is like those white people who point to Obama or affirmative action and say that “black people have the same opportunities, or more, than whites.” The world is NOT black and white. But when conservatives see it that way, it only perpetuates the ignorance and stagnation the rest of the world laughs at us for.

  6. Rob AndersonAugust 16, 2011 at 9:10 pmReply

    did not turn to a life of crime. You cannot deny that Lockhart made a decision to join the military, and that he also made a decision to murder Lauren Burk. We have established the fact that Lockhart is an admitted drug user and that is a crime that should be punished. We have also talked about the fact that it is state law in Alabama for a judge to CONSIDER the jury’s RECOMMENDATION and then it is his job to decide the sentence, so I am not supporting a “rogue judge,” I am supporting a judge following the rule of law.
    You, on the other hand, are supporting a known drug user, an armed robber, attempted rapist and a murderer. Congratulations, you must be really proud of yourself.

  7. WayneAugust 17, 2011 at 7:01 amReply


    The death penalty is a fair and just punishment for someone who takes another persons life. Maybe you should focus in on men who have children and do not contribute to the raising and teaching of these kids. Thats the only problem I see in Courtney’s life. If you could channel your energy into that subject, You might change the world. Just saying…

    • Brett WilkinsAugust 17, 2011 at 9:44 amReplyAuthor

      Again, the United States is the ONLY country in the Western world (along with the brutal Lukashenko dictatorship in Belarus, if you consider that “Western”) to practice the barbaric death penalty. It is like slavery, or female disenfranchisement in that it is destined for the scrap heap of history. Why can’t you see that? Are you proud to live in a country that counts North Korea, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and China as its company in the sad fraternity of capital punishment? Even Russia, Venezuela and the monstrous regime of Myanmar do not execute criminals, rightfully believing that doing so is an anachronistic form of cruelty and barbarism. Even Castro’s Cuba has not executed anyone since 2003. Wake up! Join the civilized world. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

  8. Army SGTAugust 17, 2011 at 10:55 amReply


    I understand your absolute hatred of the idea of capital punishment, I actually think that to put someone on Death Row should be the hardest thing to do in our criminal court system. The problem I have with your post is the “facts” behind this mans past that you use to justify that capital punishment is so wrong. I also wonder if the sad case of Courtney Lockhart would be so sad to you if he had kidnapped, raped and murdered an innocent Iraqi girl while deployed in Iraq in 2004? I bet Bushs’ head on a pike would be all that satisfied you for that attrocity. Do you know the violence the Abu Gharib prison workers had to live through, no one writes a blog in defense for them and their actions and blaming it on PTSD.
    I have no issue with you defending your views on capital punishment, where we disagree is the fact that you are trying to use the Army as a defense. As you probably took from my name, I am in the Army and just like Mr Lockhart I served in the Sunni Triangle in 2004, Fallujah to be exact. My unit was in the middle of the fight for Fallujah and let me tell you there were things that happened there that no man or woman should have to deal with, but you know what, we did. Not one person from my unit went home after our deployment and commited capital murder, did we have instances of PTSD, of course every unit does. The Army mandates that you recieve counseling upon your return from overseas, and if you need further counseling after the mandatory sessions, you are urged almost forced to attend more.
    In your original post you stated that his barracks were located next to an artillary range, IMPOSSIBLE. The Army has strict land policies that determine what kind of ranges can be on post and what ranges have to be in training areas. Only small arms, 5.56mm and below can be shot on post. An artillary round has to be fired into an impact zone which has to be far enough from any housing that the UXO (unexploded ordinance) cannot be a danger to life, limb or eyesight. These are all excuses that you have been led to believe are real problems, but in reality this is a ploy this man is trying to use to not get in trouble.
    In the case of his drug use, one thing every Soldier is briefed on before returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan, is the drug and alcohol policy, no drinking can occur within 48 of return and drug test will be administered monthly. Back in 2004 it was difficult to get out of the Army on PTSD alone, the “brass” wanted to treat you before they let you out on a medboard. The way Soldiers got around this was by using drugs, every Soldier knows that there is a zero tolerance for drug use, so instead of getting the help he needed, this coward chose the quick way out so there would be no chance of him going back to Iraq again. The counseling was provided, he chose not to pursue it. I despise the fact that someone as seemingly intellegent as yourself would be fooled into thinking that PTSD is what caused this man to kidnap, rape and kill. There are men and women just like myself who have to deal with PTSD everyday, who don’t commit crimes, who are upstanding members of society, who want nothing more than to see this country that we faught for succeed. People like you and Mr Lockhart who use this serious injury as a means to get off of a penalty for a crime that he committed in cold blood is criminal and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    • Brett WilkinsAugust 17, 2011 at 11:29 amReplyAuthor

      Lock Lockhart up. Throw away the key. I have no problem with that. I don’t ever want him to breathe the air of a free man again as long as he lives. I don’t know why all of these comments seem to assume that I want to let him off the hook for his heinous crimes. Perhaps the fault lies in my writing if so many of you seem to think this.

      I don’t doubt that anything you say regarding the Sunni Triangle and Iraq in general is true. I am currently working on a book with a chapter about Fallujah, Abu Ghraib and U.S. war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq and elsewhere… I’m sure you’re aware of them, whether you approve of them or not. No, I don’t want Bush’s head on a pike, as you say, but I would like to see him in the dock in the Hague.

      I did not know about the war crimes you allege Lockhart of committing in Iraq. If true, they do not surprise me and should also be punished by life behind bars with absolutely no possibility of parole. Is that the “mitigating circumstance” the judge considered when overturning the jury decision? I must research this, but I am going to assume that what you say is correct, in which case, Lockhart ought to have 2 life sentences imposed.

      Still, there is NO CRIME ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH THAT DESERVES TO BE PUNISHED BY DEATH. 137 countries have recognized this fact, including Russia, Venezuela and Myanmar. Only the US stands alone in the Western world in executing criminals. Don’t you see anything wrong with this? Or are you one of those who insanely believes that the US is somehow morally superior in its barbarism?

      Oh, and one more thing… are all of you readers out there aware that around A DOZEN soldiers from Lockhart’s Colorado base have committed murders since returning from Iraq? These crimes are NOT all their fault. Different people react differently to the stresses of combat, something I’ll never understand but you can’t deny that what I just said is true. The fault lies as much with the imperialist warmongers who sent these brave, patriotic young men to kill and die for the enrichment of a ruling elite. They’ve ruined so many brave young American lives, not to mention the lives of hundreds of thousands– nay, millions– of people in the countries we invade and occupy. Who is going to stand trial for THAT?

      • john smithAugust 17, 2011 at 2:08 pmReply

        enough of talking about Lockhart.
        Screw him and let him die.

        What should be focused on is Lauren Burk and her bravery of how she dealt with that piece of crap.

        Focus on wonderful Lauren, not that waste of space.

  9. Louise lipshuckAugust 17, 2011 at 7:43 pmReply

    Lauren was beautiful in every possible way. I support Mr. Smith. Let’s focus on her and always keep her lovely memory alive. In respect to the family, I would encourage all to move on to a more positive subject where the energy you are using to prove your points may be channeled more productively. We love you Lauren Ashley Burk. Your light shines on us every day. Much love forever. Xox

    • Brett WilkinsAugust 17, 2011 at 9:50 pmReplyAuthor

      Great idea.

  10. DavidSeptember 22, 2011 at 6:52 pmReply

    The pain Lauren’s father had to endure,, is unimaginable. If he decided that is what he felt justice is. I agree with the Judge. In case you don’t understand that, the judge is man with the hammer. He also has seem more crimals than you ever will in you San Fran townhouse…
    He has a law degree and many other credentials. This isn’t the past were Negros were hung for their crimes without due process. I’d say 3 years is enough time. “a black guy killed a white girl in Alabama”. Shocking you say. To make assumptions that that the judge is racist means that you are more than likely gay based on where you live. I have been through circumstances in my life,, my sister as well and sleep better at night knowing the perpetrator is
    dead. Capitol punishment is not handed out to everyone in Alabama, but in this case for the sake of the family it good that “it is finished,” a bible quote( just throw them around freely on your site right). The plight of this man was his own decisions with his own mind, he deserves what he got.

  11. ArmySoldierGirlSeptember 29, 2011 at 5:45 amReply

    This man was a sick individual. I served in the unit he was in and everyone can contest that Lockhart has mental issue before the Army put him out. What people fail to realize is there is a system and a process and when soldiers slip through the crack its because people forget about checks and balances. I feel extremely sorry for the pain he inflicted on his victim and her family. The loss of hopes and dreams for their child is unimaginable. But we must realize that this man was not sane. Regardless if the Army is all volunteer or if so and so served in Vietnam. People who have not been there do not understand the magnitude of death and destruction that soldiers see there. When this man joined the Army he was normal, when he left he was not. He was a good soldier at one time and war changed him. Everyone cannot handle war the same, kudos to those who kill and see death and come back “okay”. Others were not that mentally strong to begin with. And if someone says that they were not changed after this war…they are lying through their teeth. Lockhart was dead before he took that woman’s life. His mind had already killed him. Unfortunately now a judge will see that he is physically dead. Once again he is not getting the help or treatment that he needs. This happens to often, and I pray that it changes, and it changes fast.

  12. Jack HoffmanSeptember 30, 2012 at 5:35 pmReply

    There are literally millions of law abiding veterans who learn the rules of engagement, yet do not murder innocent coeds in cold blood. The punishment fits the crime.

  13. BRIAN PIKEJune 7, 2013 at 12:11 pmReply

    Courtney Lockhart stalked his prey on school grounds, then abducted her and after a while, shot and killed her…FRY THE BASTARD!!!

  14. BRIAN PIKEJune 7, 2013 at 12:55 pmReply

    I can understand the Capital punishment issue with respect to certain offenses but where a multiple offender like Mr. Lockhart is concerned, they are doing the right thing. He should NEVER be allowed to live.

  15. DiorJune 9, 2013 at 6:58 pmReply

    To paraphrase a prosecutor, we often forget the victim… she is gone and now we have in front of us a seemingly remorseful criminal.
    Let’s not forget a beautiful life has been cut short. For no good reasons… An innocent victim…

  16. scottJune 25, 2013 at 12:43 amReply

    to the blogger…

    …way to make it a race issue. asshole.

  17. Eric ReardenJuly 12, 2013 at 8:21 amReply

    I enjoyed reading most of the comments in this blog. I have opinions based on being a Marine combat vet of Vietnam 1968, resident of the south (SC & AR) retired legal advocate for disabled veterans and 10+ years in prison ministry and an American.

    I’d like to know Lockhart’s history before service. Was he a thug or law abiding young man? If his claims of enduring combat are true then none of you without combat experience have a clue what is like to live through it. No doubt he turnd into a bad soldier if he got an actual Dishonorable Discharge (DD). The military can get rid of people via a General Discharge for minor offenses, Undesireable Discharge for more severe offenses, Bad Conduct Discharge for still more serious offenses and the DD for the worst offenses. Merely striking a superior, unless he was trying to kill him, would justify a DD. So if he got a DD, which would make him ineligible for any VA benefits, including treatment for PTSD, he was a very bad apple.

    He stalked the victim, methodically kidnapped, forced her to undress, and then executed her. He was not in the throes of a flashback (during which most rational thought/bahavior is impossible), nor reacting to situations similar to in combat. Then he proceeded to commit a string of robberies.

    We are a nation of laws and in Alabama a judge can overrule the jury’s verdict. He did just that.

    Capital punishment is reserved for the worst of the bad. I am in favor of it, if administered fairly. I care not one bit what another country does. It is no deterrent and that is irrelevant to me. It is not aboutrevenge, or an eye for an eye. It is simple, really. If you commit a certain crime, such as murder with accompanying felonies such as rape (no doubt this was on Lockhart’s agenda), kidnapping, torture or kill more than one person you should be executed. I don’t care, in DP cases, aboutrehabilitation, or likelihood of commiting future murders. The only thing that matters, absent significant mitigating factors, is the nature of the homicide.

    There is nothing un Christian about the DP. Christ himself was put to death by verdict. Honestly, the DP is sometimes the only thing that is profound enough to cause an inmate to turn his/her life around. Do you think the condemned character in Dead Man Walking would have turned his life around had he been sentenced to life? He was a lifelong thug and liar. Never took responsibility for his actions and living in general population as a murderer doing life will cause most men to get ‘badder’, not better.

  18. ericDecember 10, 2013 at 9:53 amReply

    i think its bullshit how when dumb asses go and kill off someone who is actually trying to make a positive contribution to society people feel they deserve a roof over there head and three meals aday. spending peoples hard earned money (taxpayers). and oh lets blame the war. he deserves to die. not only that he should suffer to the most extreme and that poor girls family should get to take part in it. bet they dont go and start a crime spree case of what they see and if they do lets hope they go after his family cause we all no the apple dont fall far from the tree. his whole family should be killed off.

    • Brett WilkinsDecember 10, 2013 at 10:04 amReplyAuthor

      Yes, kill his whole family. Women and children included. They’re all innocent, but fuck it, this is ‘Murica… rough justice!

  19. Bubba PhillipsDecember 10, 2013 at 10:12 amReply

    I agree fully with Mr. Wilkins, i really do. I would even go one further… I have young daughters, and if Mr. Lockhart had killed one of them, I would have personally & sincerely asked for the Court’s mercy, and also asked if Mr. Lockhart could possibly be treated in a medical facility, and i would have worked tirelessly to see it through, as I would not have wanted him in a penal institution. In a hospital, where he could received psychiatric care, by decent, caring doctors and nurses, and not under lock and key like an animal, they could try to unravel the terrible ravages that his military service caused. Furthermore, it would have been much better for him, and much easier for me to drive a .223 cal 50gr JHP fast mover through his fucking brain stem and two more just like it CM of his dropping carcass before I slipped back into the treeline.

    Cheers! Have a great day!!:)

  20. melissaJanuary 23, 2014 at 12:58 pmReply

    if someone was assaulting you, would you fight back? If someone tried to kill you, would you try to kill them first? If you answered yes to either or both – then your argument about the death penalty just went out the window. Lethal injection is self defense – delayed and carried out – not by the victim, because she is dead, but by state. I rest my case. Unless you would let someone kill you or your loved ones without putting up a fight… as they say in Alabama – “you don’t have a dog in this fight.”

    • Brett WilkinsJanuary 23, 2014 at 2:15 pmReplyAuthor

      I am quite familiar with Alabama sayings, as I have lived and worked there before. They’re big on Christianity down in the Heart of Dixie; here’s a great saying from the most popular man in all of Alabama: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” -Jesus Christ.

      On the rare occasions when I have been assaulted– once for being black, another time for being an American in Greece– I ran away. If someone tried to kill me, I would first try to escape and then, if there were no other options available (but some weapon was somehow at my disposal), I would use the appropriate amount of force necessary to save my ass.

      I don’t have a problem with Courtney Lockhart being punished for his crime. But we must understand that Lockhart was suffering from a very serious ailment– PTSD– that affected his judgment, and that the judgment of the jury, which was that he should be imprisoned for life, was overruled by a judge operating under a peculiar and patently unjust law.

  21. Mark dillardJanuary 23, 2014 at 6:35 pmReply

    Ahhhh you are black .The race card. So easy for you to play isn’t it Brett? This beautiful child was abducted, shot, and dumped on the road to die. As a father,I can’t imagine the pain. I don’t care if he is orange, fry his ass! Race is not the issue!

    • Brett WilkinsJanuary 23, 2014 at 6:58 pmReplyAuthor

      Please provide an example of me “playing the race card” in the article.

      • JayOctober 7, 2014 at 11:13 amReply

        “One also cannot overlook the fact that this case occurred in Alabama, with a black, male perpetrator and a white, female victim.”

        The race card example you asked for. Also, the judge’s actions are legal under Alabama law. Your remarks above about “rule of law” are inaccurate.

  22. Will StewartJanuary 23, 2014 at 7:05 pmReply

    I have friends that have come back from serving and have all gone through hellish things, but NONE of them have went and kidnapped a woman and forced her to get naked and then shot them to death. There is no excuse for his actions and you should be ashamed of yourself for even trying to sway someone in the direction of feeling sorry for that piece of trash. May the fluids that courses through his veins as they take his waste of a life burn as hot as the flames will be in HELL as he burns for all eternity.

  23. Elizabeth Del GrecoJanuary 24, 2014 at 4:01 amReply

    The Army may have trained Mr Lockhart to kill, but I doubt they trained him to kidnap and order a young lady to undress. This is also not the result of PTSD. You are making excuses for the inexcusable, and your pseudo-compassionate stand is helping no one, and only makes you look dumb. A young, promising life was snuffed out for no reason at all. The man who did it deserves his fate. Thus are the consequences for the choices he made. So be it.

  24. JarvisJanuary 24, 2014 at 8:59 pmReply

    Fag nigger

    • Brett WilkinsJanuary 24, 2014 at 9:56 pmReplyAuthor

      Who would you be referring to?

      • JMMarch 11, 2014 at 11:10 amReply

        Your article is completely unfounded. Do you know these people? Did you research their lives BEFORE they went to war?

        Courtney Lockhart went to my high school (Smiths Station, AL), and he has ALWAYS been a violent, hateful person. Maybe it isn’t the war that got to these guys. It could be the poison of being surrounded by violent people (i.e. Courtney).

        Don’t disrespect other service members and their strength to rebound from the struggles of war by arguing that this vile individual is anything like them.

  25. tony toesJanuary 30, 2014 at 4:25 amReply

    Can’t we just call a murdering loser a murdering loser? This was a piece of shit his whole life. He stalked and killed an innocent person. Lets stalk and kill his family and we’ll pretend we are traumatized by his killing spree.

  26. PatFebruary 1, 2014 at 10:10 pmReply

    Lifetime partner? End of story

  27. BarryMarch 6, 2014 at 9:14 pmReply

    I knew Lauen Burke, friends with the family, and I had just as soon see the son of a bitch dead.

  28. lulu heartMay 6, 2014 at 4:14 pmReply

    I’m black to begin with. Pure black, as black as Courtney. I will not insult anybody’s views. But Courtney deserves the death sentence. Even before he left the army, he was violent, hateful and commited crimes. I wish people could research before you make a whole damn blog about it. Nothing is racist here, the judge was RIGHT! Nobody ever wants to admit that they killed someone for no reason but their own inner persona, so he blames it on traumatic experiences *yawn* it would be different if he murdered someone who wronged him, but she was INNOCENT and did nothing to him! He went on to use her credit card, NO REMORSE! His confession tape showed a face of a born killer, no tears, no “STRESS” when explaining in order for you to see signs of PTSD, NOTHING. His face was stone cold. His death should be stone cold too!

  29. JameboMay 20, 2015 at 4:43 amReply

    I remember when this story broke. First of all, I just want to say that Auburn University is a great campus! This could have happened on any campus in this state. Lauren Burk had a promising life that was taken away too soon! But her reward is in the eternal kingdom of heaven. That is where her eternal life is right now. She still should be here, but our world has changed in the worst direction.

    Lockhart really needs to seek God in his life be he gets executed and seriously needs to ask for forgiveness or accept damnation as ashes/dust.

    I feel so bad for the Burke family. My thoughts and prayers go out to all their family. They can at least have peace knowing that she is in heaven

    Unfortunately, Satan gets his hand on people who can’t resist, and therefore, he or she makes a devastating decision. Certainly I hope that college campuses all over the United States takes more measures to secure these colleges, even if it means hiring trained security guards with tasers. Whatever it takes, that’s what needs to happen to crack down on violence.

    One more question: Is it the WWE’s fault that 20-year-old adult performed The Undertaker’s move the “Last Ride”? That’s why they have disclaimer. Nuff’ said!

  30. sgt danMarch 31, 2017 at 11:45 pmReply

    army didn’t teach him trigger control?

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