Haditha Charges Dropped Against Two Marines

Charges have been dropped against a Marine captain and lance corporal who had been accused of criminal wrongdoing in the killing of three brothers in a 2005 incident in Haditha.

Capt. Randy Stone Haditha Photo 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:

Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt Photo 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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Monica says:

    Both the Marine Corps and Murtha owe these guys an apology.

  2. G.A.Phillips says:

    Both the Marine Corps and Murtha owe these guys an apology.

    maybe the Marine Corps but you should know by now that liberals don’t got to apologize for nutin, their special.

    wow I’m not sure if that came out right or not, haha!

  3. bains says:

    Many links, but I don’t see any to the actual reports. Seems they all go to news organizations dissemination of said reports. As such, I find this, “[B]ut Murtha’s statement was correct…” a bit of a stretch for two reasons. One, the quoted text you provide, “that U.S. Marines “killed innocent civilians in cold blood,” is a statement from a US lawmaker (and given the knee-jerk phrasing, I’d say sympathetic to Rep. Murtha), not an official of the military. Two, there is a huge difference between killing and murdering.

  4. Bandit says:

    A sad day for terrorsymps across the world