[JURIST] A US Marines investigating officer has recommended that murder charges be dropped against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum [advocacy profile] for his role in the killing and suspected cover-up of the death of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in November 2005. Lt. Col. Paul Ware said that there was insufficient evidence to support bringing Tatum to court-martial on charges of unpremeditated murder, negligent homicide and assault [USMC charge list]. In making his recommendation to Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who will make a final decision on whether Tatum will face court-martial, Ware said that Tatum fired on civilians "not to exact revenge and commit murder" but "because of his training and the circumstances he was placed in." If Mattis does decide to refer Tatum to court-martial, he could face life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.
Eight Marines were initially charged [JURIST report] in connection with the Haditha killings. Charges were dropped [JURIST report] against two Marines earlier this month after a similar report from the investigating officer recommending that evidence would not support a court-martial. Among the Marines still facing allegations of wrongdoing is the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani [JURIST news archive]. An investigating officer has recommended that Chessani face court-martial [JURIST report] for dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order. Squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [advocacy website] faces 13 counts of unpremeditated murder, and charges of soliciting another to commit an offense and making a false official statement; a preliminary hearing in his court-martial is set for August 30. AP has more.