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Gazette Premium Content Carson soldier facing court-martial in killing of Afghan prisoner

TOM ROEDER Updated: February 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

A Fort Carson soldier will be court-martialed for the murder for an Afghan prisoner, despite claims by his defense attorney that he’s too mentally ill for trial.

Pfc. David Lawrence’s case was referred to a general court martial Tuesday by Fort Carson commander Brig. Gen. James Doty. The 20-year-old soldier faces a maximum punishment of life in prison in the Oct. 17 shooting death of an alleged Taliban leader known by the pseudonym Mullah Mohebullah.

“The date for the general court-martial has not yet been determined,” Fort Carson said in a news release.

During the trial, a key issue will be whether Lawrence understood right from wrong on the day of the shooting.

An Army sanity board convened in November to examine Lawrence found he was “unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his conduct” at the time of the killing, according to Army documents obtained by Lawrence’s family.

The board did find, however, that Lawrence is fit to stand trial.

The findings set the table for an insanity defense that, if successful, could see Lawrence sent to mental health treatment rather than prison.

During a December evidence hearing in the case, Lawrence often fell asleep, which his civilian attorney, James Culp, attributed to anti-psychotic drugs prescribed to the soldier by Army psychiatrists.

The soldier’s father, Brett Lawrence, said Tuesday that his son still doesn’t understand the trouble he’s facing.

“My concern is they want to put him in prison, where he won’t get the treatment he needs,” Brett Lawrence said.

On Oct. 17, Lawrence was serving at an outpost north of the Afghan city of Kandahar when he was sent to guard Mohebullah, who had been captured earlier in the day by soldiers from Fort Carson’s 1st Brigade Combat Team.

During his guard shift, prosecutors said, Lawrence entered Mohebullah’s cell and fired a single round from his rifle into the Afghan’s face. The case drew worldwide attention after Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a blistering condemnation of the killing a day after Mohebullah died.

After the shooting, Lawrence was sent to another Afghan base for psychiatric care, then  commanders in Afghanistan sent him home for treatment.

During the December hearing, Army prosecutors sought to prove that Lawrence was sane at time of the killing and has since faked mental illness to avoid punishment.

After the December hearing, Lawrence was admitted to a mental hospital, where family members said he was treated for schizophrenia.

Lawrence’s father said his son is now being treated by a civilian psychiatrist hired by the family because they were dissatisfied with the care provided by the Army.

Call the writer: 636-0240

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