Army veteran Steven Russell, Jr. was convicted of the capital murder of his girlfriend Joy Owen on January 27, 2012. Russell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors say Russell killed Joy because she tried to leave him. In the middle of the night on November 3, 2009, Russell cocked his gun and fired it four times at Owen with no apparent provocation. The North Little Rock Police Department found Joy Owen’s body around 4:30 a.m. In the course of the homicide investigation, police learned that Russell had received 5-years probation in Clark County, Arkansas for the second-degree domestic battery of another girlfriend in 2008. According to reports, the U.S. Army said Russell was a mechanic stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and he enlisted in the Army in 2001; the year he left the Army was not available.
Steven Russell’s defense team admitted he killed Owen but blamed the shooting on post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by his war service in Iraq in 2003. The attorneys appealed the decision claiming he “had the dubious task of recovering bodies and equipment after they had come in contact with improvised explosive devices.” But the state Supreme Court disagreed with the defense saying the judge was confronted with conflicting forensic evaluations. While two mental health professionals “found that Russell lacked capacity as a result of mental disease or defect to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law or to appreciate the criminality of his conduct, the court also had before it (another doctor’s) opinion to the contrary.” The Supreme Court upheld a Pulaski County jury’s 2012 conviction of capital murder.
“You would have to believe [Owen] did something that reminded him of his Iraqi war experience … and I can’t make that jump. To me, it was too convenient, and there was too much purposeful action.” –Dr. Brad Diner, psychologist
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