US soldier's killings were premeditated
14 May 2013, 09:07
Tacoma - A US soldier, who pleaded guilty to killing five fellow servicemen at a combat stress clinic in Iraq, acted with premeditation in the 2009 shooting spree, a military judge ruled on Monday.
In a deal that spared him the death penalty, US Army Sergeant John Russell last month pleaded guilty to killing two medical staff officers and three soldiers at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, in a shooting that the military has said may have been triggered by combat stress.
Russell faced an abbreviated court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington to determine the level of his guilt.
A military judge was to determine whether Russell acted with premeditation, as prosecutors said, or on impulse, as the defence has argued.
During a brief morning hearing at the base, the judge, Army Colonel David Conn, asked Russell to stand and gave his verdict.
This week both sides will present cases for the sentence Russell would receive, and the judge is likely to rule by week's end.
The mandatory sentence for even one count of premeditated murder is life in prison.
Russell faces up to life in confinement without the possibility of parole, forfeiture of pay and a dishonourable discharge.