New York Times
April 22, 2005
FORT BRAGG, N.C., April 22 (AP) - A military jury convicted an Army sergeant of premeditated murder and attempted murder on Thursday for killing two of his comrades and wounding 14 others in an attack on his own camp in Kuwait at the start of the Iraq war.
The sergeant, Hasan Akbar, 34, could be sentenced to death when the 15-member jury reconvenes on Monday.
Prosecutors said Sergeant Akbar, a Muslim, told investigators that he attacked the brigade command section of Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait, using stolen grenades and a rifle, because he was concerned that troops would kill Muslims in Iraq. They said he coolly carried out the attack on the 101st Airborne Division to achieve "maximum carnage."
Defense lawyers acknowledged that he carried out the attack but argued that he was too mentally ill to have planned it.
The attack killed Capt. Christopher Seifert, 27, of the Army, and Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, of the Air Force. The 101st was preparing to move into Iraq when the attack occurred in the middle of the night on March 23, 2003.
The verdict came after two and a half hours of deliberations and seven days of testimony. Sergeant Akbar stood at attention as the verdict was read, chewing his lip but giving no other outward sign of emotion.
The trial was the first court-martial since the Vietnam era of an American charged with the wartime murder of a fellow soldier.
"Sgt. Akbar executed that attack with a cool mind," the prosecutor, Capt. Robert McGovern, said during closing arguments. "He sought maximum carnage."
A defense lawyer, Maj. Dan Brookhart, said that the prosecution ignored evidence that his client was mentally ill. Major Brookhart scoffed at an Army psychiatrist's testimony that Sergeant Akbar suffered merely from "the blues."
Major Brookhart said Sergeant Akbar's actions after the attack showed that he was not intent on achieving maximum destruction. He said the sergeant stopped his attack although he had three more grenades and a nearly full clip in his rifle.