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The last Haditha Marine: Trial update, prosecution collapse, plea deal in the works?

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 19, 2012 05:49 PM

At the beginning of the month, I told you about the trial of SSgt Frank D. Wuterich — the last of the Marines charged in connection to an alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians in the village of Haditha in 2005.

The late corruptocrat John Murtha and the New York Slimes convicted and hanged the Marines in 2006 over the case before a single formal charge had been filed. Murtha slandered the troops before the world, declaring that “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” Then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama unabashedly backed Murtha’s smears. NYTimes reporter Paul von Zielbauer initially filed over 30 stories on the case, which the paper had hyped as the “defining atrocity” of the Iraq war.

And then: One by one over the last six years, the Marines were exonerated.

April 2007: Charges dropped against Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz.

August 2007: Charges recommended dropped against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum.

August 2007: Charges dropped against Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt.

September 2007: Charges dropped against Capt. Lucas McConnell.

March 28, 2008: Case dropped against Haditha defendant Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum.

June 5, 2008: Haditha Marine Lt. Andrew Grayson acquitted.

June 17, 2008: Charges dismissed against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani.

SSgt Wuterich’s trial has been ongoing the last three weeks.

Captain’s Journal has coverage here.

Defend Our Marines and our friend Sgt. Tim Sumner give a heads-up today that a plea deal may be in the works. The hearing had been scheduled to resume this afternoon, but was postponed until tomorrow morning. The LA Times reports:

Negotiations continued Thursday into a possible plea bargain in the court-martial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the last of eight defendants in the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by Marines from Camp Pendleton.

At issue in the negotiations could be the kind of discharge that Wuterich will receive and what, if any, criminal charges he will plead guilty to.

Wuterich, 31, who was the squad leader during the killings in Haditha, is charged with manslaughter, assault and dereliction of duty. The dereliction of duty charge carries a lesser-included charge of failure to follow a lawful order.

The charges, if Wuterich were convicted on all counts, could bring a prison sentence of 154 years and a dishonorable discharge.

But the prosecution’s case has been undercut by testimony from two of its own witnesses that seemed to back the defense assertion that Wuterich was merely following orders and training when he led his squad into two “hostile” homes in search of insurgents.

Three other prosecution witnesses underwent stringent cross-examination by defense attorneys who doubted their credibility because of their various accounts of what happened on the morning of Nov. 19, 2005, after a roadside bomb killed one Marine and injured two.

The military judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, abruptly recessed the trial on Wednesday afternoon, instructing the attorneys to seek “other options.”

Jones initially set 8:30 a.m. Thursday to resume the trial. That was then readjusted to 1 p.m. Thirty minutes before the trial was to resume Thursday, Jones sent word that the jurors had been told that the next session would be 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Stay tuned to the Twitter account of SSgt Wuterich’s legal team at Puckett Faraj.

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Posted in: Haditha,Veterans,War

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