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Sixth US serviceman enters guilty plea in Hamdania murder case

[JURIST] US Marine Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington [advocacy website] pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges [DOC text] of murder, kidnapping, housebreaking, larceny and conspiracy for his role in the death of Iraqi civilian Hashim Ibrahim Awad [Wikipedia profile] in Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in April 2006. A military judge at Camp Pendleton [official website] will sentence Pennington during a two-day hearing if his guilty plea is accepted. In November, Pennington claimed [JURIST report] that agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service [official website] blocked his access to a defense lawyer and threatened him with the death penalty during interviews after the April incident, in an effort to prevent the prosecution from using statements he made during his court-martial. NCIS agents have denied Pennington's allegations.

Charges were also re-issued Tuesday against US Marine Cpl. Trent Thomas, who was the fifth serviceman to plead guilty [JURIST report] in the Hamdania case during a court hearing in January. Thomas later withdrew his guilty plea [JURIST report] on the second day of his sentencing hearing in February after saying he no longer believed he was guilty, but rather that he was following a lawful order from superiors. US Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, [JURIST reports] and Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson [advocacy website; JURIST report] have also pleaded guilty in exchange for their testimony in the case, in which seven Marines and one Navy corpsman were originally charged [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

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