Monday, February 22, 2016

"Last Day of Freedom" Explores Veterans On Death Row

Oscar-nominated film spotlights death-row veterans, combat PTSD
Military Times
By Patricia Kime
February 22, 2016
“They was able to discern his physical wounds and was able to patch them up, but they never got around to patching that wound in his head.” Bill Babbitt
A film that raises questions about veterans' mental health care, capital punishment and justice for troubled troops is on the short list for an Oscar on Feb. 28.
The 30-minute documentary “Last Day of Freedom” tells the story of Marine veteran Manuel Babbitt through the eyes of his brother. Babbitt was executed in California after being convicted of beating an elderly woman to death.
(Photo: Courtesy of Dee Hibbert-Jones)
The 30-minute documentary “Last Day of Freedom” tells the story of former Marine Manuel Babbitt through the eyes of his brother Bill. Babbitt was executed in California in 1999 after being convicted of beating an elderly woman to death in Sacramento in 1980.

Babbitt — “Manny” to family and friends — had suffered a head injury as a child, and despite having learning disabilities and dropping out of school in seventh grade at age 17, was recruited by the Marine Corps. He went to Vietnam and later developed a host of mental health issues, including schizophrenia, severe post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse.

“They was able to discern his physical wounds and was able to patch them up, but they never got around to patching that wound in his head,” Bill says in the film.

Through a melange of film footage and animation using more than 30,000 drawings and sketches, filmmakers Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman follow Manny Babbitt's life from childhood to grave, focusing on his struggles but also on the system they believe failed him.

"One of the things we really wanted to uncover is the complexities of the death penalty and of veterans' care," said Hibbert-Jones, an associate professor of art at the University of California-Santa Cruz. "The fact that someone would go to war and serve their country and then be failed by that country is a complete travesty.”
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