Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Army Private to Plead Guilty Despite Evidence of Mental Illness

The LA Times reports that PFC David W. Lawrence will receive a reduced sentence his trial for premeditated murder in death of Mullah Mohebullah. Mohebullah was a senior Taliban commander; Lawrence shot him in the face last October while Lawrence was a guard at the US detention facility in Kandahar. This incident led to increased tensions between the US and Afghanistan, with Karzai asking for a separate investigation and calling on the US to better screen the mentally ill from its units, especially those in forward positions.

The plea agreement is expected to remove the possibility of life sentence without parole from consideration, which would have reflected poorly on the Army if chosen for a twenty-year-old, mentally ill defendant. Army doctors diagnosed him with schizophrenia and PTSD. At the beginning of his tour, Lawrence was profoundly affected by the death of his chaplain, which led to his asking to see a mental health specialist. The Army quickly moved him to a hospital in Kandahar for treatment. Lawrence killed Mohebullah soon after he was released from the treatment. The defense intended to argue not guilty by reason of insanity based on this evidence.

Despite this, evidence did exist to show that Lawrence did in fact premeditate the murder and was conscious of the decision. A board of Army doctors declared that he was “unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his conduct,” but that he was fit to stand trial.

(Credit: Richard Weiland)