US soldier guilty of murdering five at Iraq stress-clinic

Wilburn Russell, 73, displays a portrait of his son, Sergeant John M. Russell, the Army sergeant who is accused of killing five fellow soldiers in Iraq, outside of his sons home in Sherman, Texas 12 May 2009 Lawyers for Russell, shown in a portrait held by his father, said the attack was done on impulse

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A US military judge has found a US soldier guilty of the premeditated murder of five fellow servicemen in Iraq in 2009.

Sgt John Russell pleaded guilty to the killings last month in a deal to be spared the death penalty.

Russell, 48, killed two medical staff officers and three soldiers at a combat stress clinic at Camp Liberty, Baghdad.

He had been referred to the clinic by his superiors and his weapon had been taken away a week before the attack.

Russell, a 14-year-veteran, now faces the sentencing phase of his court martial, where a judge will determine whether he will spend the rest of his life in prison or have the possibility of release one day.

The army sergeant had pleaded guilty to unpremeditated murder, with his defence arguing the attack had been done on impulse.

But as part of the deal to avoid the death penalty, prosecutors were allowed to try to prove he had planned the attack.

Defence lawyers said Russell had been suicidal, with his mental health impaired by several combat tours. They said he had been provoked to violence by maltreatment at the hands of Camp Liberty's healthcare workers.

But the judge ultimately sided with prosecutors, who said Russell had sought revenge on a mental health worker who would not help him secure an early exit from the Army.

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