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Military judge drops charges against US Marine in Haditha civilian killings case

[JURIST] A military judge Tuesday dropped charges against a US Marine charged in connection with the November 2005 killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. Battalion commander Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani [JURIST news archive] had faced court-martial [JURIST report] for dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order based on allegations that he failed to properly investigate the Haditha shootings. Judge Col. Steven Folsom dropped the charges after finding that a decision by Gen. James Mattis [official profile] to press charges may have been unduly influenced by a Haditha investigator who later became Mattis' personal legal adviser. AP has more.

Chessani was the highest ranking of eight Marines initially charged in connection to the Haditha incident, and charges [text] have since been dropped against all but one. The court-martial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [defense website], leader of the squad implicated in the killings, was postponed indefinitely [JURIST report] in March. This month, US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson [defense website; JURIST news archive] was cleared on all counts, including charges that he ordered a subordinate officer to delete photographic evidence [JURIST reports] of the killings.

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