US Army Sgt. John Russell pleaded guilty today to intentionally murdering five fellow servicemen and women in Iraq in 2009, as part of a deal that will allow him to avoid the death penalty. The judge hasn't decided whether or not to accept the plea deal yet, though he did immediately grant Russell's request to be tried before a judge alone, Reuters reports.
Russell plead guilty to five counts of intentional murder, one count of attempted murder, and one count of assault. Even if the judge accepts the plea, Russell will have to be tried to determine the degree of his guilt. At issue is whether he planned the killings or "whether he snapped and killed these people out of rage that was linked to his own personal despair," his civilian lawyer explained. If the murders were planned, Russell could be convicted on the more serious charge of premeditated murder.