Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Haditha prosecution faltering?

Powerline has the scoop, and Democracy Project has the links. It appears that the prosecution is having a hard time finding a way to prosecute this case:

The officer in charge of a military hearing expressed serious doubts Friday about the government's prosecution of Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, one of three Marines charged in the November 2005 shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha.Lt. Col. Paul Ware, who will recommend whether to send Sharratt to trial, challenged the prosecution, saying the government's theory of the case do not warrant the three counts of unpremeditated murder filed against Sharratt in December.

"The account you want me to believe does not support unpremeditated murder," Ware told the lead prosecutor, Maj. Daren Erickson. "Your theories don't match the reason you say we should go to trial."

Ware's comments came as the government and defense presented him with summations of the case on the fifth and final day of a hearing that will determine if the 22-year-old rifleman from Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment will be ordered to stand trial.

Sharratt is accused of the civilian equivalent of second-degree murder for shooting three Iraqi brothers inside a home. A fourth man was shot by Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who also faces murder charges.

Ware also suggested he is inclined to believe Sharratt, who maintains the first two men he shot were pointing AK-47 rifles at him, and that the killings were carried out in self-defense.

"To me it seems the most important issue is whether the Marines perceived a hostile threat," Ware said. "It comes down to credibility to determine if this case should go to trial."

Prosecutors filed charges against Sharratt based on interviews with relatives of the slain men, who contended they did not have any weapons and were herded into the room and shot in rapid succession.

In a statement he read to Ware on Thursday, Sharratt said that story is false and that the killings stemmed from his belief his life was in danger.

"I would not change any of the decisions I made that afternoon," Sharratt said.

Prosecutors agreed Friday that the case centers solely on the competing versions of events. The discrepancy among accounts is enough to warrant the case going to trial, Erickson told Ware.

Ah, but the San Diego Union Tribune states that the forensic evidence doesn't match the prosecutors claims:

Lt. Col. Paul Ware said he was having “a great deal of difficulty understanding the prosecution's theory” that Sharratt and another Marine led four Iraqi men into a house, then executed them Nov. 19, 2005, in the city of Haditha. Ware is scheduled to make his recommendation on whether to court-martial Sharratt by the beginning of next month.

The prosecution's arguments aren't supported by forensic and other evidence, Ware said during the final day of Sharratt's preliminary hearing at Camp Pendleton.

His comments came a day after Sharratt – a member of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment – testified that he and Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich shot the Iraqis in self-defense after at least one of them pointed an AK-47 rifle in their direction.

Forensic evidence suggests that one of the Iraqis was shot while crouching behind a closet door, according to testimony given Thursday by a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

It's worth noting that we didn't buy this at all when the charges came down, nor did we swallow the line from the media that this was a purposeful massacre. The media immediately jumped on discrepencies int he Marines' statements, but as anyone who has been in a warzone knows it's not easy to keep track of everything going on around you. You react on your instincts, and you may not have the "facts" of your surroundings. If someone is pointing a weapon at you, you put them down. We have always believed that these Marines were innocent.

That aside I can turn to the fact that the hearing oficer is telling prosecutors that they really have a weak case against these Marines. That's the big story. The media's been salivating over this one since the indictments were handed down, hoping they could make good on their screeds. It's looking more and more like the forensic evidence in the case will destroy the prosecution's arguments. When this is all said and done I'm wondering if these Marines will take the Ilario Pantano route and leave the service after this is all said and done. We hope not, and we hope that the evidence is there to clear these men of any wrongdoing. At this point, this is now in the purview of the military courts.

Publius II


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