U.S. soldier accused of Iraq shooting "psychotic": doctor

Tue Nov 20, 2012 10:00pm EST
 
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By Laura L. Myers

TACOMA (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier accused of killing five fellow servicemen at a military combat stress center in Baghdad in 2009 was psychotic and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder during the shooting frenzy, a top U.S. forensic psychiatrist testified on Tuesday.

Sergeant John Russell, 48, is accused of going on a shooting spree at Camp Liberty, near the Baghdad airport, in an assault the military said at the time could have been triggered by combat stress.

Russell, of the 54th Engineer Battalion based in Bamberg, Germany, faces five charges of premeditated murder, one charge of aggravated assault and one charge of attempted murder in connection with the May 2009 shootings.

Six months ago, he was ordered to stand trial in a military court that has the power to sentence him to death, if he is convicted.

Russell's civilian attorney, James Culp, entered no plea at an arraignment on Monday at a military base in Washington state. Russell's court martial is tentatively set for mid-March and could last four to five weeks, attorneys told Reuters on Tuesday.

In a second day of hearings to discuss Russell's state of mind at the time of the shooting and establish what evidence or testimony to admit at the court martial, Robert Sadoff, a University of Pennsylvania forensic psychiatry expert, gave the opinion that Russell was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Russell has "dissociative disorder," or a lack of memory about the shootings, said Sadoff, who examined Russell for a total of 20 hours after the shootings. "He cannot remember. It's a legitimate disorder. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder."

Sadoff, a veteran of 10,000 criminal cases added: "It's a matter of what's going on in this man's mind. He was psychotic. He was not dealing with reality. That's what psychosis is."   Continued...

 
Sgt. John M. Russell, the Army sergeant accused of killing five fellow soldiers in Iraq, is seen in a military photo provided by his father, Wilburn Russell, 73, outside of his son's home in Sherman, Texas May 12, 2009. REUTERS/Russell Family/Handout