WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Delaware prosecutors are asking a judge for a gag order to prevent relatives of a soldier accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a Wilmington woman from talking about the case.
Prosecutors filed the motion Tuesday in response to a Veterans Day column in the op-ed pages of the Sunday New York Times in which Dwight Smith's father and wife discuss the effects of combat on him, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Family members made similar statements shortly after Smith's arrest.
Smith is charged with raping and killing Marsha Lee, 65, who was abducted while walking her dog in December 2011. Police said at the time that Smith targeted Lee at random after deciding he wanted to kill somebody. He allegedly hit Lee with his sport utility vehicle, threw her inside, then raped her and beat her to death. According to prosecutors, Smith said in the confession that led to his arrest that the attack was unplanned and random.
Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty against Smith, who was on leave from Fort Drum in New York at the time of the killing.
The New York Times column was accompanied by a letter Smith wrote to his father expressing concerns about his mental health and suggesting that he became "addicted to killing" during his military service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I have killed a lot of men and children. Some that didn't even do anything for me to kill them. Also some that begged for mercy," Smith wrote in the undated letter. "I have a problem. I think I got addicted to killing people. I could kill someone go to sleep wake up and forget that it ever happened. It got normal for me to be that way. I never wanted to be this way. I just took my job way to serious. I took things to the extreme. Anyone can tell you that I changed. It is like being a completely different person."
The article also quotes one of Smith's public defenders, Bradley V. Manning, as suggesting that there will be more such crimes involving troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, where Smith was injured in a March 2011 mortar attack.
"It's hard to make sense of, but when you take somebody's brain and rattle it around, it damages it in ways they don't understand," Manning is quoted as saying.
While prosecutors said they would not respond directly to "self-serving" and "factually erroneous" statements made by Smith and his family members, they argued that such pretrial publicity should be restricted because Smith likely will raise a mental health defense and his family members are potential witnesses in the case.
"If the state were inclined to so respond _ and we shall not _ we would be entitled to point out events in the defendant's past that pre-date his military service that are inconsistent with the notion that his violent behavior began only after his military career, behaviors during the instant crime (specifically, rape) that are wholly inconsistent with the prevailing expert medical understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder and what we have good cause to believe are gross distortions if not outright fabrications by the defendant of his experiences in combat," prosecutor Steven Wood wrote.
"Nonetheless, the state reiterates that it has no desire to try this case in the media," added Wood, who nevertheless declined to file his own motion under seal. "Instead, the state seeks to bring an end (to) the specter raised by inappropriate pre-trial publicity by seeking an order from this court regulating such."
Manning, the public defender, did not immediately return a telephone message Thursday. Brendan O'Neill, head of the state public defender's office, declined to comment.
A hearing on the motion was scheduled for Friday.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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