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Federal court prepares to try ex-Marine for Iraq killings

[JURIST] Jury selection began Tuesday in the the trial of a former US Marine who faces voluntary manslaughter charges [JURIST report] for alleged involvement in the deaths of four Iraqi civilians in 2004. Sergeant Jose Nazario cannot face trial by court-martial because he is no longer in the military, and is therefore being tried under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 [text], which gives federal courts jurisdiction over civilians who allegedly committed crimes abroad while still associated with the US military. Some have criticized the government's use of the law against Nazario, arguing that it was designed to prosecute government contractors, but others cite specific language in the Act as evidence that it was also intended to include retired military personnel:

An Act...to establish Federal jurisdiction over offenses committed outside the United States by persons employed by or accompanying the Armed Forces, or by members of the Armed Forces who are released or separated from active duty prior to being identified and prosecuted for the commission of such offenses, and for other purposes.
The trial is being held by the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] and Nazario faces more than 10 years in prison in convicted. BBC News has more. The San Diego Union-Tribune has local coverage.

In March, US Marine Sgt. Ryan Weemer was charged [press release; JURIST report] with one count of murder and one count of dereliction of duty, and in December Marine Sgt. Jermaine A. Nelson was charged [JURIST report] with murder and dereliction of duty charges in connection to the same incident as Nazario.  Both of those men face court-martial as active members of the military. In March 2007, a US military court-martial found 101st Airborne Staff Sgt. Raymond Girouard guilty of three counts of negligent homicide [Article 32 hearing transcript, DOC], but not guilty of premeditated murder for the deaths of three Iraqi detainees [JURIST news archive] held after a May 2006 raid in Thar Thar, a town near Samarra in the northern Salahuddin province of Iraq. In January 2007 US Army Specialist William Hunsaker received an 18-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice charges [JURIST report] related to the same incident as Girouard.

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