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US military judge dismisses obstruction charge in Haditha killings case

[JURIST] A Camp Pendleton [official website] military judge Tuesday dismissed one count of obstruction of justice against US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson [defense website; JURIST news archive], an intelligence officer charged in connection with the November 2005 killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. The obstruction charge was based on allegations that Grayson ordered a subordinate to delete photographic evidence taken hours after the Haditha killings in order to keep it out of an official report. Military judge Maj. Brian Kasprzyk told jurors at a Tuesday hearing to disregard the obstruction charge, but offered no explanation. Grayson's defense attorney asserted that it was dismissed because prosecutors had not alleged Grayson knew of the criminal investigation at the time he ordered the photos destroyed. Grayson still faces charges [USMC charge sheet] of making fraudulent official statements and fraudulently attempting to procure a discharge. Closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday. The North County Times has more.

Eight Marines were initially charged in connection with the Haditha incident, though charges have since been dropped against five others. 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, while proceedings in Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani's [JURIST news archive] case were postponed [JURIST report] until later this month so that a judge could consider whether several military officials were under "undue command influence" to charge the Marine.

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