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Final marine tried in Haditha killings pleads guilty

US Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [advocacy website] pleaded guilty [USMC case materials] Monday to the charge of negligent dereliction of duty, ending the final court-martial resulting from a five-year investigation into the 2005 deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians [BBC backgrounder]. Wuterich was charged with voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, obstruction of justice and dereliction of duty in court-martial proceedings that began less than two weeks ago. All of the charges except dereliction of duty have been dropped in return for his guilty plea. Wuterich was accused of overreacting [AFP report] to the death of another marine in a roadside bombing in Haditha, Iraq, and allegedly ordering his men to 'shoot first and ask questions later.' He sent his men into nearby houses to search for insurgents, which resulted in the deaths of the Iraqi civilians, including 10 women and children. Seven other marines were charged in 2006 with crimes relating to the incident, but in six cases charges were dismissed and one marine was acquitted. Wuterich will be sentenced by a military judge at a later date.

Wuterich was denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] his charges in 2010. His trial was postponed in 2008 [JURIST report] after a judge decided to throw out a subpoena for unaired footage of a CBS interview with Wuterich that prosecutors believed could have proven his guilt. Charges against Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Chessani [JURIST news archive] were dropped [JURIST report] in June 2008, the same month 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson [JURIST news archive] was acquitted [JURIST report] of all charges against him relating to the incident. In August 2007, charges against Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt and Capt. Randy W. Stone were dismissed [JURIST report]. In 2007, an official report on the Haditha incident by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell showed that there was "serious misconduct" [JURIST report] at all levels of the chain of command.

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