Soldier expected to plead guilty in detainee death

AP News
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Posted: May 25, 2011 3:46 AM
Soldier expected to plead guilty in detainee death

A mentally ill U.S. soldier accused of killing an Afghan detainee plans to plead guilty to premeditated murder on Wednesday in exchange for a substantially reduced prison term, his lawyer said.

Pfc. David Lawrence, 20, is scheduled to appear in a military court at Fort Carson, Colo.

James Culp, Lawrence's civilian attorney, said the soldier reached a plea agreement with Army officials. Culp declined to say how long a prison term the agreement calls for. Lawrence could have faced up to life in prison or execution.

He is accused of fatally shooting a suspected Taliban member who was asleep in a jail cell at a U.S. outpost in Afghanistan on Oct. 17.

Army doctors concluded in January that Lawrence had schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the shooting. They said he was "unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his conduct at the time of the alleged criminal misconduct."

But the doctors said Lawrence was capable of understanding the procedure against him and of helping his lawyer. Army officials used similar wording when they announced in January they intended to court-martial him despite the diagnosis of mental illness.

Lawrence is assigned to Fort Carson's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

His father, Brett Lawrence, and Culp described him as a troubled young man from a family with a history of schizophrenia. They said he was badly shaken before the shooting by the deaths of two friends in Afghanistan, including a chaplain.

Lawrence sought help from an Army combat stress center in Afghanistan and was prescribed antidepressants. He was assigned to guard duty when he returned to his unit in in the Arghandab Valley just outside the city of Kandahar, according to testimony at a hearing last year.

He was on guard duty at the cell of the prisoner he is accused of shooting, identified in Army documents only as Mohebullah.

Brett Lawrence said his son is under guard in a Fort Carson barracks and is on medication prescribed by military doctors.