SEATTLE (AP) — An Army sergeant charged with killing four other soldiers and a Navy officer in May 2009 at a mental health clinic in Iraq should not face a possible death penalty, his lawyer said Monday.
Sgt. John Russell has no memory of being inside the Camp Liberty Combat Stress Center near Baghdad, attorney James Culp said.
“We believe strongly that John went to kill himself in front of the doctor who had mocked him and antagonized him,” Culp said. “And the doctors say he was suffering from major depression with psychotic features and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The facts do not warrant a death penalty, he said.
Premeditated murder charges were filed Wednesday against Russell, 47, of Sherman, Texas.
The lawyer from Austin, Texas, said he had tried to avert the possibility of a death sentence.
“The delays were all requested by the defense in the hopes we would end up with a non-capital referral,” Culp said.
If convicted, the maximum punishment is death, but the court martial jury will have options short of the death penalty, he said.
“We do not believe now that when a military panel is seated, this is the type of punishment they will seek to impose on John, once the facts are heard,” Culp said.
Russell’s lack of memory will be a problem for the defense, he said.
No date for the court martial has been set, but Culp said he asked for a date in December and the government wants an earlier date.
The shootings are believed to be the worst case of soldier-on-soldier violence of the Iraq War, said Culp and Lewis-McChord spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield.
Russell also has an Army defense attorney, but it is standard procedure for them not to comment to the media, Dangerfield said.
The military trial will focus on the mental stress of combat, Culp said.
“The court martial will tell us a lot about the lack of mental health care in the combat zone,” he said.
A hearing on possible charges held in August 2009 at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., established that Russell was nearing the end of his third tour when his behavior changed. Members of his unit testified that he became more distant in the days before the May 11, 2009, attack, and that he seemed paranoid that his unit was trying to end his career.
On May 8, 2009, Russell sought help at a combat stress clinic at Camp Stryker, where his unit was located. On May 10, 2009, Russell was referred to the Camp Liberty clinic, where he received counseling and prescription medication to treat his symptoms.
Witnesses said the following day they saw Russell crying and talking about hurting himself. He went back to the Camp Liberty clinic, where a doctor told him he needed to get help or he would hurt himself. Russell tried to surrender to military police to lock him up so he wouldn’t hurt himself or others, witnesses said.
Military prosecutors said Russell left the clinic and later returned with a rifle he took from his unit headquarters and began firing. He was arrested afterward.
Killed in the shooting were Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C., and four Army service members: Pfc. Michael Edward Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md.; Dr. Matthew Houseal, of Amarillo, Texas; Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J.; and Spc. Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo.
Russell deployed to Iraq with the 370th Engineer Company, 54th Engineer Battalion from Bamberg, Germany. In Iraq the 54th was assigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade, based at Lewis-McChord, which is responsible for the court martial.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11