Author:
Callie Strong

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On September 3, 2014
Last modified:January 29, 2015

Summary:

David Lawrence was suffering from PTSD and severe schizophrenia. He asked for help and was given a bottle of pills and a gun and was then ordered to guard a known killer associated with the Taliban. The insurgent wound up dead and now David Lawrence is facing a decade in prison which doesn't seem fair. Had the Army given him proper medical care when he first asked for help the entire event could have been avoided.

“David was born on July 22, 1990 in Cincinnati, Ohio. We have affectionately called him “DJ” since birth.  He was a beautiful baby with curly blonde hair, and bright blue eyes.  He is the middle child of five children.  As a brother, DJ is adored by his two older sisters, and has a playful, loving relationship with both his younger brother and sister.  We are a tight knit family.” David’s Parents

Private First Class David Lawrence joined the Indiana National Guard in September of 2007.  He had just turned 17 years-old.  In October of 2009, David transferred to active duty to become an infantryman in the U.S. Army.  In December of 2009, he reported to his new unit, 1-66 Armor Battalion at Fort Carson, Colorado.  An infantryman in an armor battalion, David was immediately assigned to his battalion commander’s personal security detachment (PSD).  The PSD is a platoon of about 30 Soldiers whose primary duty is to provide security to the battalion commander and the battalion sergeant major.  David turned 20 years-old at Fort Carson on July 22, 2010.  The next day, he deployed to Afghanistan as a member of Tasas a member of Task Force 1-66 Armor Battalion, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

Combat Deployment to Afghanistan
After spending a few days at the Kandahar Air Base, David and the rest of the PSD platoon were relocated to a small outpost in northern Afghanistan known as “Operation Control Center District Arghandab” (OCCD).  Described as the size of two football fields, OCCD and the 250 U.S. and Afghanistan Soldiers who lived there regularly came under heavy mortar and rocket attacks.  During vehicle convoys to and from their remote base, David and the other members of the PSD were under the constant threat of improvised explosive devises (IEDs) and small arm attacks.  In early September of 2010, a convoy of four military vehicles carrying David and a dozen other members of the PSD came under attack.  After the initial vehicle was disabled by an IED, the stalled convoy was then attacked by small arms fire.  Though only minor injuries were sustained in the attack and only the first vehicle disabled, David had experienced the event from his exposed machine gun position on top of his Humvee. 

Casualties of War
Between August and November of 2010, more than 100 members of David’s battalion became casualties of the war in Afghanistan.  Eight members of the battalion were killed: two of them were David’s friends.  Another friend of David’s survived his wounds, but became an amputee. The death of one of the battalion’s Soldier’s had an especially negative impact on David: Captain Dale Goetz, the battalion’s chaplain.  According to the the platoon medic, Private First Class (PFC) Dimitri Jenkins, no member of the PSD was closer to Chaplain Goetz than David.  Somewhere between adolescence and Afghanistan, David had lost his faith.  Chaplain Goetz was determined to help him find it.  A close bond developed between the two men that was immediately evident to those who cared about David, like PFC Jenkins.

The Death of a Special Friend
Chaplain Dale Goetz was the battalion’s only Chaplain.  When he ventured outside the perimeter of the base to tend to the spiritual needs of the battalion’s Soldiers (which was far more often than was required of him), he was normally transported by the battalion’s PSD.  When David was on duty, the Chaplain rode with him.  David would always begin a conversation with the Chaplain with a warning that any attempt by Chaplain Goetz to convert him would be futile.  It was a dare: an invitation to speak about God.

By late August, their relationship was firmly established.  David had come to love Chaplain Goetz because Chaplain Goetz loved him.  Chaplain Goetz on the other hand, loved David, because that it was Chaplain Goetz did. He loved and cared for the Soldiers of 1-66.  On Aug. 30, Chaplain Goetz and PFC Lawrence spoke for only a few minutes before the Chaplain and four other Soldiers from 1-66 departed the base on a trip to conduct services and counsel soldiers at several remote combat outposts in Kandahar province.  Not long after their departure, a roadside bomb struck their vehicle killing all five Soldiers.  Captain Dale Goetz was dead at 43, the first chaplain killed in combat since the Vietnam War.

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Chaplain Dale Goetz and his wife, Christy. At right, his helmet and dog tags at a memorial service in Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Los Angeles Times)

A Wounded Mind
Even before the untimely death of Chaplain Goetz on August 30, 2010, David Lawrence’s mental health had already begun a terrible downward spiral.  David’s experiences in Afghanistan had triggered a very significant genetic predisposition for major psychiatric illnesses.  One of David’s immediate family members suffers from Bipolar Disorder with a history of psychiatric hospitalizations.  David’s maternal uncle and grandmother are completely disabled by schizophrenia.  In the weeks before Chaplain Goetz was killed, David had begun to hear voices in his head.  At times the voices appeared to be guiding him, helping him avoid harm.  Other times a reoccurring voice would tell him that he was too afraid to kill himself.  After the death of Chaplain Goetz, David’s mental condition worsened considerably and he began hallucinating.  David reported to his family that his reoccurring hallucinations included seeing soldiers who had died in Afghanistan, including Capt. Dale Goetz. He told his father “… he could see the chaplain with only half a head remaining,” David’s family implored him to seek mental health treatment.  He promised he would.  A half a world away, David’s parents and family did what they could do.  They prayed for David, and prayed that he would be evacuated from Afghanistan once he was evaluated by the Army’s psychiatrists at the Combat Stress Clinic.

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March of 2011. The last time David has seen his family. This is the last family photo they have together. After this, he was sent to Leavenworth to the USDB.

Combat Stress
Within days of Chaplain Goetz’s death, David began asking his military chain of command for permission to travel to the Combat Stress Clinic located at Kandahar Air Base to seek obtain treatment for an unidentified mental health issue.  The platoon medic and the medic’s supervisor had begun to identify disturbing changes in David’s behavior.  Outwardly, David was withdrawn and angry.  Inwardly, David was becoming more and more unstable.  A trip to the Combat Stress Clinic meant coordinating a helicopter flight to Kandahar for David and at least one escort.  David’s company commander eventually approved David’s request to be evaluated and treated in Kandahar.  On Sept. 10, 2010, David and his squad leader, SSG Dominic Buscemi, traveled to Kandahar and David was seen by on a walk-in basis.  While SSG Buscemi returned to the OCCD compound, David remained at the Combat Stress Clinic for five days.  David was prescribed Zoloft and Trazadone, two anti-depressant medications that the Food and Drug Administration has warned could make an individual 24 years-old or younger, more depressed and/or suicidal.

With psychotropic medication in hand, David returned to his unti on September 15, 2010.  Upon his return to OCCD, David was placed on permanent installation guard duty.  Though he still belonged to the battalion commander’s PSD, he neither worked with the PSD, now was he directly supervised by his former chain of command.  Though David’s leaders knew he had returned from Kandahar with two separate anti-depressant medications, David returned with no instructions that he should be monitored.   In very real terms, when PFC David Lawrence returned from the Combat Stress Clinic in Kandahar on or about Sept. 15, 2010, he immediately began to receive less supervision than before he had requested mental health treatment.  There were no limitations placed on PFC Lawrence’s access to weapons or limitations on his duty.

Medicated and Assigned to Permanent Guard Duty
Between September 15, 2010 and October 17, 2010, the PSD platoon medic, PFC Dimitri Jenkins observed PFC David Lawrence assigned to guard shifts that were longer than others who were assigned to guard the installation.  Meanwhile, David began to complain that the medication he had been placed on was severely interfering with his ability to sleep.  During this time period, PFC Jenkins remembers attempting to assist David in acquiring a change in his medications to facilitate sleep.  Those efforts were not successful.  In the month leading up to the killing of Mullah Mohebullah, David began to sleep less and the voices and hallucinations brought on by his severe schizophrenia began to overwhelm him.  PFC Jenkins described David in this period as “up and down” – some days he was “jolly.” Other days he was dark and quiet.  Sometimes you could tell he was on his meds – something in his eyes,” Jenkins recalled.  Jenkins testified that he reported his concerns to superiors about Lawrence.

Mullah Mohebullah
On Oct. 16, 2010, U.S. Forces operating in the Arghandab district of Kandahar captured Mullah Mohebullah, a person known to U.S. Forces and Afghanistan Forces to be a “senior leader of the Taliban network in Arghandab.”  Though he had already pulled a guard shift that had lasted from the morning until 6 PM in the evening, On Oct. 17, 2010, David was assigned an additional one hour shift to guard Mohebullah as well.  Though many details of what took place immediately before, during and after David’s Oct. 17 guard shift of Mullah Mohebullah are in dispute, there are four facts about that night that are not in dispute:

  • One month and one day after 20 year-old David Lawrence returned from the Combat Stress Clinic in Kandahar (where he was prescribed two narcotic anti-depressants) David was left alone to guard a known Taliban leader;
  • During the time-period David was left alone to guard Mohebullah, Mohebullah was shot once in the face and died;
  • A team of expert forensic psychiatrists appointed by the Army to investigate David’s mental state have concluded to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that PFC David Lawrence suffered from PTSD and severe schizophrenia at the time Mohebullah was killed; and
  • The team of expert forensic psychiatrists appointed by the Army to investigate David’s mental state have determined to a reasonable medical certainty that as a result of the severe nature of his PTSD and schizophrenia, PFC David Lawrence was unable to appreciate the nature or wrongfulness of his actions on Oct.17, 2010 (these conclusions are tantamount to a finding of not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility).

Arrest and Interrogation
Mohebullah’s death was announced by an angry Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Oct. 19, 2010.  A single charge of pre-meditated murder was filed against PFC Lawrence by the U.S. Army on the same day.  Between Oct. 17 and Oct. 19, 2010, David was detained by U.S. military authorities on the OCCD compound where David was assigned.  David was abruptly taken off both Zoloft and Trazadone from the moment he was detained.  On Oc. 19, 2010, David was flown under guard to Kandahar Air Base where he was subjected to a CID interrogation that started at 6 PM on Oct. 19, and lasted until the early morning of Oct. 20, 2010.  Though he had abruptly been taken off both Trazadone and Zoloft two days before, and though he was suffering from both PTSD and schizophrenia, the Army contends David knowingly waived his right against self incrimination and that he voluntarily subjected himself to a CID interrogation that lasted more than six hours.  The agent who interrogated David at the Kandahar CID Office on Oct. 19, 2010 later revealed that he purposefully chose to neither video-tape nor audio-tape the extended interrogation of PFC Lawrence.  According to the Denver Post, the agent who interrogated David alleges that over the six hour interrogation, David provided different versions of what transpired in Mohebullah’s cell: “in one version David allegedly claimed that Mohebullah had been hit by a ricochet.  In another, he said the prisoner screamed and spit at him and made a move as if he were about to jump up.  And finally, [he] said ‘he imagined all the people I know being blown up and I kind of just blacked out’ before the shooting.”  Of course, this same CID agent who failed to video-tape or audio-tape the interrogation of David, also failed to have any other person observe or witness David’s interrogation and confession.
R.C.M. 706 Sanity Inquiry Ordered
Between Oct. 20, 2010 and Nov. 6, 2010, PFC Lawrence was medically evacuated from Kandahar, Afghanistan to Fort Carson, Colorado.  David and his escorts made stops at The Army Medical Hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, and Darnall Army Hospital at Fort Hood, Texas before arriving at Fort Carson, Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010.  In each location, David was evaluated and treated for his on-going psychosis.  On Nov. 5, 2010, Brigadier General Doty, the Commanding General of Fort Carson, Colorado ordered that a complete mental evaluation of PFC Lawrence be conducted by a team of Army forensic psychiatrists known in the military as an R.C.M.706 Sanity Board.  General Doty ordered that the following five questions be answered by the Army’s forensic experts:

  • At the time of the alleged criminal conduct, did the subject have a severe mental disease or defect? (In this regard, the phrase “severe mental disease or defect” does not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal conduct or otherwise antisocial conduct, or minor disorders such as non-psychotic behavior disorders and personality disorders.)
  • What is the clinical psychiatric diagnosis, if any?
  • Was the subject, at the time of the alleged criminal misconduct, and as a result of such severe mental disease or defect, unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his conduct?
  • Does the subject have sufficient mental capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings and to conduct or cooperate intelligently in his defense?

The Article 32 Investigation
Despite two formal delay requests, the U.S. Army forced David and his attorneys to participate in a preliminary hearing (known in the military as an Article 32 Investigation) held on 29 and 30 November 2010.  According to Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M. 405), “The primary purpose of the Article 32 Investigation “is to inquire into the truth of the matters set forth in the charges, the form of the charges, and to secure information on which to determine what disposition should be made of the case.  The function of the investigation is to ascertain and impartially weigh all available facts in arriving at conclusions and recommendations, not to perfect a case against the accused.”  David’s attorneys cited several reasons that the Article 32 Investigation in David’s case should have been delayed, but the two most important were:

  • The Sanity Board Inquiry that had been ordered by Brigadier General Doty on Nov. 5, 2010 were not yet completed and were therefore temporarily unavailable to be considered by the investigating officer.  David’s attorneys argued that the Government (i.e., BG Doty) had ordered the Sanity Board Inquiry, and that it was unfair to proceed forward with the Article 32 until the results of the Sanity Board Inquiry were available.  David’s attorneys correctly cited R.C.M. 405(g) which states that an important right of a Soldier accused of a crime at an Article 32 Investigation is to have the right to present anything in defense, extenuation, or mitigation for consideration of the investigating officer.  By forcing the Article 32 Investigation to proceed before the Sanity Board Inquiry results were finished, David’s right to present (and have considered) the results of his Sanity Board Inquiry at the Article 32 Investigation would be violated.
  • David had a right to have a neutral and impartial Article 32 investigating officer consider the facts and evidence in his case.  For the following reasons, David’s attorneys argued the investigating officer assigned to investigate David’s case was not impartial as required by the Uniform Code of Military Justice:
  • The investigating officer was a military lawyer who worked in the same office as the prosecuting attorneys is supervised by the same military lawyer (The Staff Judge Advocate) who supervises the chief prosecutor against David.
  • The investigating officer’s legal advisor was supervised by the same military lawyer who supervised the chief prosecutor and who supervised the investigating officer.
  • The prosecutor in the case against David was acting as the legal advisor for the Army officer who had convened the Article 32 Investigation.  This officer refused to delay the Article 32 Investigation as the defense had requested only after the prosecutor had personally advised him to deny the defense request.

Not surprisingly, the young military lawyer assigned to be the investigating officer in David’s case, the same lawyer who will have his report card and future assignment determined by the military lawyer who supervises the senior prosecutor in David’s case, eventually concluded that:

  •  There were “NO grounds to believe that the accused [David] was not mentally responsible” for the killing of Mohebullah; and
  • The case of against David should proceed to a general court-martial.

The R.C.M. 706 Sanity Board Results
On January 21, 2011, the team of expert forensic psychiatrists appointed to investigate David’s mental state before, during and after the alleged offense, concluded the Sanity Board Inquiry and forwarded their findings to the defense, the prosecution, and Brigadier General Doty, the Commander of Fort Carson.  Their findings were as follows:

  • At the time of the alleged criminal conduct, did the subject have a severe mental disease or defect? (In this regard, the phrase “severe mental disease or defect” does not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal conduct or otherwise antisocial conduct, or minor disorders such as non-psychotic behavior disorders and personality disorders.)

ANSWER: The subject did have a severe mental disease or defect at the time of the alleged criminal conduct.

  • What is the clinical psychiatric diagnosis, if any?

          ANSWER:  PTSD and Schizophrenia

  • Was the subject, at the time of the alleged criminal misconduct, and as a result of such severe mental disease or defect, unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his conduct?

           ANSWER: Yes, the subject was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his conduct at the time of the alleged criminal misconduct.

  • Does the subject have sufficient mental capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings and to conduct or cooperate intelligently in his defense?

          ANSWER: The accused had sufficient mental capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings and to conduct or cooperate intelligently in his defense at the time of the Sanity Board examinations.

General Court-Martial
Though the Army could (and should) withdraw the charges against David and facilitate the medical assistance that he needs, the prosecution of PFC David Lawrence continues.  The Army alleges that it is unpersuaded by its own medical experts.  On Jan. 31, 2011, the U.S. Army changed the name of the Taliban Commander David is accused of killing from “Mohebullah” to “a male of apparent Afghan descent,” and forwarded his case to a general court-martial.  David was arraigned before a military judge on Feb. 15, 2011, and his general court-martial on the charge of premeditated murder was scheduled for June 6, 2011 at Fort Carson, Colorado.

“When we learned of the shooting, we were shocked.  We were distraught.  We knew David was not in his right mind.  Today, as a family, we still go through the same emotions.  We worry about his day-to-day well being.  Is he being properly cared for?  Is he taking the right medications?  Will he think of taking his life today?  Will the Army believe him this time?  Not a minute goes by where we think of anything else.  We struggle with constant financial worry.   The expenses of private medical and psychiatric care, the travel expenses and legal fees are mounting.  Our government has failed our son, and we are responsible for saving his life both literally and figuratively.”

David is a loving, caring person. He is a son, a brother and an uncle. It is time he be set free. Free to live his life, and to receive the help that he needs to move forward from the treacherous treatment that he has suffered at the hand of our government. David has spent nearly his entire sentence thus far, in solitary confinement. Let me give you a visualization of what this looks like:

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This is what Pfc David Lawrence has had to look at for 23 hours a day, for nearly 4 years. He was recently moved into General Population in March of 2014, however, as of last week; August 2014, they have came back and said that he must go back to the Solitary Housing Unit due to something that happened a year ago. A year ago? As far as I know, David has already been punished for this incident and there is no reason for him to be re-punished. But this is how things work at the USDB. They can do as they please and they answer to no one. This kind of treatment MUST stop. Taking David from General Population, and placing him back into the SHU, is not good for his recovery. He has been doing good in GP, and with his mental disabilities, placing him back into confinement can only do him more harm.

If you would like to send words of encouragement to PFC David Lawrence; you may do so with the address listed below.

David Lawrence (90617)

1300 N. Warehouse Road

Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304

You can also join his support group page or visit his personal website.

For more information on similar stories and how you can be proactive in their lives, please  join the group; Free Our Wrongfully Convicted Warriors on FB


 This report is part of the DCX exclusive Leavenworth 10 – Uncommon Injustice series.


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The Leavenworth 10 Uncommon Injustice