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Wounded Times

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fate of Sgt. John Russell in hands of military judge

Five killings at Camp Liberty in Iraq: Calculation or despair?
By Kim Murphy
May 11, 2013
Los Angeles Times

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, WASH. — The court-martial of Army Sgt. John Russell concluded Saturday with a military judge asked to decide whether the 14-year Army veteran was deluded by depression and despair as he shot five fellow service members in Iraq, or was executing a calculated plan of revenge against psychiatrists who had blocked his hopes for an early exit from the Army.

In closing arguments after a week of testimony, Judge David L. Conn was presented two starkly different views of what drove Russell, 48, to seize his escort’s M-16 rifle and gun down five people at the Camp Liberty combat stress center at the Baghdad airport on May 11, 2009.

While the defense says Russell was suffering from organic brain damage, major depression and post-combat stress that was aggravated by hostile mental health workers, Army prosecutors argued Saturday that Russell had been trying to paint himself as mentally ill even before the murders in an attempt to win early retirement and had then struck back “in the language of revenge” when a psychiatrist refused such a diagnosis.

Russell has already pleaded guilty to five specifications of murder, but the judge will determine whether the acts were premeditated, a key factor in whether he must serve life in prison or is eligible for parole.
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