Soldier Could Face Death Penalty Over Iraq Slaying

An Army sergeant accused of slaying his
superior and another U.S. soldier in Iraq will face a court-martial
and could be sentenced to death if convicted, the military said
Tuesday.

Army prosecutors say Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich, 39, of Minneapolis
shot his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson, and Sgt. Wesley
Durbin on Sept. 14 at a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol base south of
Baghdad. Witnesses have said Bozicevich opened fire on the soldiers
when they tried to counsel him for poor performance.

Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division
based at Georgia's Fort Stewart, ordered a general court-martial
for Bozicevich on charges of murder. His decision Tuesday was based
on preliminary evidence heard in April at the accused soldier's
Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury.

If Bozicevich is convicted but not sentenced to death, he would
face life in prison without parole, said Fort Stewart spokesman
Kevin Larson. No trial date has been set.

Bozicevich's attorney, Charles Gittins, said Tuesday evening he
had no comment.

Dawson's stepmother, Maxine Mathis, said she was thankful the
military was moving forward with the case. But she said she
couldn't support the death penalty for Bozicevich.

"If they could just send him to prison, that wouldn't bother me
one bit," Mathis said by phone from Pensacola, Fla. "I just feel
in my heart something snapped in that man. I don't know what those
young men go through over there."

The home telephone number for Durbin's wife, Brandi Durbin, had
been disconnected. There is no listed telephone number for Durbin's
parents in Dallas.

At the three-day hearing in April, Gittins said Bozicevich
opened fire to protect himself. But Gittins didn't say what
happened to make Bozicevich feel threatened enough to reach for his
rifle.

Soldiers in Bozicevich's unit testified at the hearing that they
were roused from their bunks late at night by gunfire. Some said
they saw Dawson fleeing as Bozicevich chased him with a rifle. When
Dawson fell, bleeding and mortally wounded, Bozicevich stood over
him before being tackled by soldiers who raced to the scene.

Durbin, 26, of Dallas was later found shot in the neck and chest
inside the security station where Bozicevich had been on duty.
Dawson, 24, of Pensacola, died after being taken to a field
hospital in Baghdad.

The soldiers' platoon leader, 1st Lt. Ryan Daly, testified that
Dawson planned to pull Bozicevich off patrol duty after he left a
soldier behind on a foot patrol the day before the slayings. He
said Bozicevich had another problem earlier when he lost one of his
grenades. Durbin was to temporarily replace Bozicevich as a
four-man team leader.

Soldiers from Bozicevich's unit said it was standard procedure
for troops to carry loaded rifles at their base in Iraq.
Preliminary testimony indicated Bozicevich, Dawson and Durbin were
all armed when the shootings occurred.

Bozicevich was in Iraq on his second combat tour in three years
of active duty. He had previously served 15 years in the Army
Reserve in Minnesota.


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