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Investigating officer recommends dropping murder case against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 23, 2007 09:48 PM

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Following up on another Haditha Marine slandered by Rep. John Murtha:

An investigating officer recommended Thursday dismissing all charges against a Marine accused of murdering two girls in an assault that killed 24 civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha.

Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, 26, is charged with unpremeditated murder of two girls and negligent homicide on suspicion that he unlawfully killed two men, a woman and a boy. He is also accused of assaulting another boy and a girl.

Investigating officer Lt. Col. Paul Ware said the evidence was too weak for a court-martial. Tatum shot and killed civilians, but “he did so because of his training and the circumstances he was placed in, not to exact revenge and commit murder,” Ware wrote.

“I believe (Lance Cpl.) Tatum’s real life experience and training on how to clear a room took over and his body instinctively began firing while his head tried to grasp at what and why he was firing,” Ware wrote. “By the time he could recognize that he was shooting at children, his body had already acted.

Washington Post coverage here:

“What occurred in house 1 and house 2 are tragedies,” Ware wrote. “The photographs of the victims are heart wrenching, and the desire to explain this tragedy as criminal act and not the result of training and fighting an enemy that hides among innocents is great. However, in the end, my opinion is that there is insufficient evidence for trial. LCpl Tatum shot and killed people in houses 1 and 2, but the reason he did so was because of his training and the circumstances he was placed in, not to exact revenge and commit murder.”

Jack B. Zimmerman, a civilian attorney for Tatum, said he is pleased with the report and will await Mattis’s ruling before commenting further. Should Mattis dismiss the charges, it would leave pending murder charges in the case against one enlisted Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich.

“On 19 November 2005, in the mere seconds LCpl Tatum had to make a decision, he acted in accord with training, to engage targets that a fellow Marine was firing at, without time to fully assess the situation and reflect on what SSgt Wuterich was doing,” Ware wrote. “It is only in hindsight that we can start to question why SSgt Wuterich was firing his weapon at children and conclude that LCpl Tatum should have deemed such actions were unwarranted.”

For background and all the latest, go to Defend Our Marines.

The LCpl. Stephen B. Tatum Article 32 Fact Sheet is here.

The USMC Iraq investigations page is here.

Paging Rep. Murtha

Contact info for office of John Murtha:

Phone:

800-289-2642 from Western PA
814-535-2642
202-225-2065

Fax:

814-539-6229 — District
202-225-5709 — Washington

Posted in: Haditha,John Murtha

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Categories: Haditha, John Murtha, Keith Olbermann