Hypnotist Requested in Army Killing Spree Trial

Sgt. Russell’s father, AP Photo

In 2009, Sgt. John Russell allegedly left a combat stress clinic in Iraq, took a gun from a colleague, and the returned to the clinic where he opened fire and killed five people.

According to the LA Times, Sgt. Russell’s attorneys have requested a hypnosis expert to help the defendant remember what happened that day. Sgt. Russell served three combat tours, and is known to have a brain injury. His attorneys are also requesting the expert advice of a brain imaging expert to help determine the ways in which his injury may have impeded his ability to react rationally when confronted by stress.

The defense team also insists that Russell was too mentally ill with severe depression and psychotic episodes to be held responsible for the crimes. Especially in light of what is suspected to be a provoking or catalyst incident in the attacks. LA Times explains:

According to court documents and testimony, a psychiatrist at the clinic brushed off Russell’s threat to kill himself if he didn’t get help, and then angrily followed him as the sergeant left the clinic.

Sadoff, director of the forensic psychiatry fellowship program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who has evaluated more than 10,000 criminal cases during his career, laid blame squarely in the Army’s court in an evaluation he wrote to the court in September.

“I can say, very clearly, that I have never seen a case such as this one where the defendant was provoked to violence by the ineptitude and lack of compassion of two of my colleagues, who were assigned to evaluate and treat Sgt. Russell while he was in an acute state of depression, with suicidal intent, while on active duty in Iraq,” he wrote.

“The manner in which he was treated by [a] professional psychologist and psychiatrist was inexcusable and, in my opinion, provoked the violence that Sgt. Russell expressed when he shot and killed five Americans in Iraq,” he said.

There seems to be a lot of testimony and/or evidence supporting the fact that the psychiatrist followed Sgt. Russell out of their appointment and appeared agitated. If this turns out to be the case, to what degree is the psychiatrist responsible for Sgt. Russell’s attack?

Should soldiers with brain injuries even be serving in combat zones?

From a big picture perspective, what can be done to help prevent these types of attacks from happening?

Finally, do you believe that hypnotherapy should be considered in court proceedings?



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  1. Peter von Maidenberg says:

    Maybe, then, to do it well, we have to take the risk of losing our minds as well as our body parts and lives. And to assume the risk that some will hurt or kill those on their own side, or those at home.

    I think we kid ourselves a lot about how much of our humanity we can keep in and after war.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Not in order:
    Hypnotherapy is overrated.

    Apparently Nidal Hassan isn’t the only nutcase shrink the Army has working with soldiers.

    My father, at the time an Infantry platoon leader in the ETO, was summoned to battalion, which required crawling and such, to receive his Silver Star. They got to a barn where the MPs gave them each a new, clean overcoat and took away their weapons. “You line guys are all crazy.” The functionary came up in an armored car, probably from division rear and thought himself a combat soldier for the effort, pinned on the award for my father and another guy, and split.
    Point is, the MPs thought a couple of American officers were a threat.
    Might have been something to it.
    Took the overcoats back.
    Combat is as bad as it gets.

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