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Haditha Marine squad leader should not face murder charges: investigating officer

[JURIST] The investigating officer who headed the Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] for US Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [advocacy website] has recommended that Wuterich not face unpremeditated murder charges but instead be tried for negligent homicide, defense lawyers said Thursday. Wuterich, the former squad leader implicated in the killing and suspected cover-up of the death of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in November 2005, allegedly ordered several Marines to shoot unarmed Iraqis inside homes that were "hostile." Wuterich is also facing charges of soliciting another to commit an offense and making a false official statement. The investigating officer's recommendations are not binding, but commanding officers customarily accept the recommendations.

In August, a witness at Wuterich's preliminary hearing [JURIST report] testified that he never personally witnessed Wuterich shoot any of the 24 Iraqi civilians. Also in August, a hearing officer recommended [JURIST report] that murder charges be dropped against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum [advocacy profile], citing insufficient evidence to support a court-martial on charges of unpremeditated murder, negligent homicide and assault [USMC charge list]. An official report on the Haditha incident by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell found "serious misconduct" [JURIST report] on all levels of the US Marine Corps chain of command. AP has more.

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