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US Marine sergeant pleads not guilty to killing Fallujah detainees

[JURIST] US Marine Sgt. Jermaine Nelson [JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Monday in a military court at Camp Pendleton to charges of unpremeditated murder [UCMJ Article 118 text] and dereliction of duty [UCMJ Article 92 text] in connection with the November 2004 killing of four detained Iraqi insurgents. Nelson and another Marine, Sgt. Ryan Weemer [JURIST news archive], face charges [text; JURIST report] related to the killings during the 2004 battle for the city of Fallujah [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Nelson's court-martial is scheduled for next month. If convicted of murder, Nelson faces life in prison [AP report].

In July 2007, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) [official website] announced investigations of at least 10 Marines [JURIST report] in connection with the Fallujah offensive after Weemer admitted during a polygraphed job interview with the US Secret Service that he had witnessed indiscriminate killings in Fallujah. Military journalist Nathaniel Helms afterwards corroborated that account, reporting that he witnessed Marines execute subdued Iraqi prisoners, whose bodies were later buried under rubble from an air strike. A third marine, Sgt. Jose Nazario, faced charges for the same incident. Because he was no longer in the military, Nazario was charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter [JURIST report] in civilian court. Nazario was acquitted [JURIST report] in August.

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