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updated: 5/13/2013 8:21 AM

Crucial decision in Iraq murders court martial

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Associated Press

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A military judge at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington could decide Monday whether an Army sergeant who fatally shot five fellow service members in Iraq acted with premeditation.

After that determination, a sentencing hearing for Sgt. John Russell is expected to take another week. The 14-year veteran from Sherman, Texas, already has pleaded guilty to five specifications of murder in a plea agreement to avoid a death sentence.

Premeditation is a factor in whether Russell must serve life in prison.

Killed in the 2009 shooting were Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle, of Wilmington, N.C., and four Army service members: Pfc. Michael Edward Yates Jr., of Federalsburg, Md.; Dr. Matthew Houseal, of Amarillo, Texas; Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, of Paterson, N.J.; and Spc. Jacob D. Barton, of Lenox, Mo.

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