Soldier charged in Iraq shootings to begin defense

By the Associated Press | August 10, 2011 | 3:30 AM EDT

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for Sgt. John Russell are set to begin his defense before a military judge on charges he opened fire and fatally shot five service members at a combat stress clinic in 2009 in Iraq.

The 46-year-old is charged with five counts of premeditated murder for allegedly opening fire on four soldiers and a Navy commander at a mental health clinic at Camp Liberty near Baghdad. It was the worst soldier-on-soldier violence during the war in Iraq.

The case cast a spotlight on combat stress, morale and mental health issues as troops increasingly served multiple combat tours.

Army prosecutors completed their case Tuesday. A military judge will decide if Russell's case goes before a court martial, where if convicted he could face the death penalty.