Haditha Charges Dropped Against Two Marines
The Marine Corps has dropped all charges against a captain accused of failing to investigate the deaths of 24 civilians and another Marine accused in some of the killings, the Corps announced. Capt. Randy W. Stone, 35, a battalion lawyer from Dunkirk, Md., was one of four officers charged with failing to adequately probe the deaths in Haditha. “It is clear to me that any error of omission or commission by Capt. Stone does not warrant action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” Lt. Gen. James Mattis wrote.
This follows similar action this morning:
A general dropped all charges Thursday against a Marine who had been accused of killing three Iraqi brothers in response to a roadside bomb attack in Haditha in 2005. “The evidence does not support a referral to a court-martial,” Lt. Gen. James Mattis wrote in his written decision.
Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt, 22, had been charged with the murder in the deaths of three of those killed after the bomb attack Nov. 19, 2005.
The decision to drop the charges followed an earlier recommendation from a hearing officer who listened to evidence in the case. Under military law, a commanding general has total jurisdiction over a case. In his recommendation, Lt. Col. Paul Ware said murder charges brought against Sharratt were based on unreliable witness accounts, poor forensic evidence and questionable legal theories. “The government version is unsupported by independent evidence,” Ware wrote in an 18-page report. “To believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.”
So, we’re left with one Marine accused of a war crime: “The central figure in the case is squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich of Meriden, Conn., who faces 18 counts of murder. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 22.”
This is drawing plenty of blogospheric commentary, mostly focusing on John Murtha’s statements about the case, notably his reference to the accused as “cold blooded killers.” See Michelle Malkin, Bruce McQuain, Jeff Goldstein, and Uncle Jimbo.
In fairness to Murtha, though, he was merely foreshadowing what the Marine Corps itself would report.
A Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines “killed innocent civilians in cold blood,” a U.S. lawmaker said Wednesday.
Murtha, a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, said at a news conference Wednesday that sources within the military have told him that an internal investigation will show that “there was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
That’s exactly what the Bargewell Report, published twelve days later concluded. If it was wrong — and it surely seems to have been — I’m relieved. But Murtha’s statement was correct.
Related posts below the fold.