U.S. soldier charged in 2009 Iraq shootings to appear in court
A U.S. soldier accused of killing five fellow servicemen at a military combat stress center in Baghdad is set to appear at a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday as Army prosecutors and defense attorneys present motions concerning his mental health, Reuters reported.
Sergeant John Russell, who could face the death penalty if convicted, is accused of going on a shooting spree at Camp Liberty, near the Baghdad airport, in a 2009 assault the military said at the time could have been triggered by combat stress.
The state of Russell's mind has been the focus of legal proceedings over the past year in Washington state, after the soldier's attorney wrote in a memo that his client was "facing death because the Army's mental health system failed him."
Last May, Russell was ordered to stand trial in a military court, and the court martial is set to begin next month.
The hearing, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, comes at a sensitive time for the Army and its troubled Pacific Northwest outpost, one of the nation's largest.
Lewis-McChord is the home base of Robert Bales, who is accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers last March and is scheduled to face a court martial in September. In both cases, lawyers or the military have suggested post-traumatic stress disorder may have been a factor.
In the Baghdad case, Russell was ordered in December to undergo forensic hypnosis in a bid to unlock buried memories of the shooting. He has also been ordered to undergo a sophisticated brain scan and a battery of psychological tests.
During proceedings in November, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Robert Sadoff said he concluded Russell was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis at the time of the shooting spree. He also said Russell suffered from "dissociative disorder," or a lack of memory about the shootings.