Deaths of 5 servicemen premeditated, military judge decides
By The Los Angeles Times
Published: Monday, May 13, 2013, 7:51 p.m.
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Army Sgt. John Russell was found guilty on Monday of the premeditated murder of five fellow servicemen in 2009 at a mental health clinic in Iraq, a charge that carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Families of the victims embraced each other and wept as Col. David L. Conn, the military judge, delivered the verdict, rejecting the defense's plea to consider the severe depression and post-combat stress they said led the 48-year-old sergeant to commit the killings.
Russell stood quietly at the defense table as the court recessed, staring at the floor only a few feet from his mother and sisters, one of whom bowed her head.
Russell's rampage was the worst incident of violence committed by a U.S. serviceman on fellow soldiers during the Iraq war. It had been tried as a death penalty case until Russell agreed to plead guilty to the murders.
The weeklong court-martial turned on the question of whether Russell had acted with premeditation when he killed Maj. Matthew Houseal, 54; Cmdr. Keith Springle, 52; Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25; Spc. Jacob Barton, 20; and PFC Michael Yates, 19.
Defense lawyers presented evidence that Russell was suffering from longstanding sleep problems and was deeply depressed. He snapped, they said, when two Army mental health providers treated him harshly and rebuffed his efforts to get help.
Prosecutors said Army psychiatrists repeatedly tried to help Russell, who they said was angry because officials would not grant him a mental disability discharge from the Army. Prosecutors said Russell took his anger out on doctors and bystanders at the clinic as an act of calculated revenge.
A sentencing hearing began immediately after the verdict and was expected to last much of the week. The judge must impose a life sentence but could decideto make Russell eligible for parole.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Boehner’s rant brings budget deal
- Defense bill gets House OK, deals with sexual assault
- Plane crash kills Hawaii official in Obama’s ‘birther’ fuss
- ‘Affluenza’ not a viable defense in DUI deaths, psychologist says
- New wife pleads guilty in husband’s cliff death
- 52 unsafe bus lines closed in federal crackdown
- CIA archives on 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle to stay secret, government says
- Missing American in Iran was on unapproved CIA mission
- Mass. lawmaker takes seat, makes history
- House OKs slashing contractor salary cap nearly in half; Senate likely to follow suit
- Fawcett bling tops Kelly’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ suit