Haditha Marine squad leader set for court-martial

[JURIST] A US military judge Friday denied a motion to dismiss charges against US Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [advocacy website; JURIST news archive], the leader of the squad implicated in the killing of 24 Iraqis [BBC backgrounder] in Haditha [USMC case materials; JURIST news archive] in November 2005. Lt. Col. David Jones ruled [AP report] that the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that officers handling the case were improperly influenced by receiving information from an aide that had previously investigated the incident. Per military policy, the aide's prior involvement barred him from participating in the decisions to file charges or initiate court-martial [JURIST news archive] proceedings. Jones found, however, that the officers overseeing both decisions conducted ample independent research before reaching their conclusions. Wuterich's trial is now scheduled to begin September 13.

Wuterich's court-martial was postponed [JURIST report] in March 2008 to allow prosecutors time to appeal a judge's decision to throw out a subpoena for unaired footage from a CBS interview with the Marine. Wuterich was initially charged with unpremeditated murder, but the investigating officer recommended [JURIST report] in 2007 that the more serious charge be dropped. Of the eight Marines initially charged in connection to the Haditha incident, all but Wuterich have either had their charges dismissed or been found not guilty. Charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani [JURIST news archive] were dropped in June 2008, a decision that was upheld the following March [JURIST reports]. Also in June 2008, 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson [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. In August 2007, all charges against Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt and Capt. Randy W. Stone were dismissed [JURIST report]. An official report on the Haditha incident by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell found "serious misconduct" [JURIST report] at all levels of the US Marine Corps chain of command.



 

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