Local News

Defense: Soldier incompetent for trial in Bragg shootings

Posted March 4, 2009 3:22 p.m. EST
Updated March 4, 2009 4:17 p.m. EST

— A former Fort Bragg soldier accused of opening fire on his own unit in 1995 is incompetent to stand trial, his attorney said Wednesday.

Sgt. William J. Kreutzer Jr. is charged with premeditated murder, 18 counts of attempted murder, violating a general order by transporting weapons on post and larceny of government property involving the theft of ammunition.

The charges stem from the Oct. 27, 1995, shooting of members of the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade during their morning exercise at Towle Stadium on post. One paratrooper was killed and 18 others were wounded during the rampage.

Kreutzer was sentenced to death in a 1996 court-martial, but a military appeals court overturned the sentence in 2005, ruling his first lawyers were ineffective.

During a Wednesday hearing to prepare for Kreutzer's retrial, defense attorney Maj. Eric Carpenter argued that Kreutzer isn't competent to stand trial because he won't be able to "testify appropriately."

Dr. Christopher Lange, a psychologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, testified for the defense that he tested Kreutzer last August and concluded he suffers from depression and a mental disorder called flat affect. Kreutzer lacks the ability to show emotions – he has a constant "bland look" – and would appear unremorseful to a jury, Lange said.

"He's not capable of showing he's remorseful, even if he is," he said.

Carpenter told the judge that the disorder could harm his case.

"One of the reasons panels decide to execute someone is because they show no remorse. It's one of the fundamental reasons for executing the accused," he said.

Col. Elspeth Ritchie, a forensic psychologist for the Army, said she conducted 10 hours of interviews with Kreutzer in December and deemed him competent to stand trial. She said his mental condition "does not render him out of touch with reality" and described him as having paranoid personality disorder and a low-grade depression.

Kreutzer has no cognitive impairment to inhibit his ability to answer questions, Ritchie said.

"He was able to smile and engage with us," she said. "He is able to relay an account of what happened ... It does not affect his ability to testify."

Col. Patrick Parrish, the military judge handling the case, is expected to rule on the matter within a few days.