Military Law

Marine Lawyer Cleared in Haditha Case

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All charges have been dropped against a U.S. Marine lawyer who was accused of dereliction of duty for not conducting a more aggressive investigation of the deaths of 24 civilians at Haditha, Iraq in 2005.

Capt. Randy Stone, who served as battalion lawyer, will not be charged, based on a review of the facts in the case and a hearing officer’s recommendation, Lt. Gen. James Mattis said today in a written statement, according to Reuters and the Los Angeles Times. His action concludes a lengthy pretrial hearing to determine whether Stone should face charges in a court martial.

“It is clear to me that any error of omission or commission by Captain Stone does not warrant action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” Mattis says in the statement, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I am aware of the line that separates the merely remiss from the clearly criminal, and I do not believe that any mistakes Captain Stone made with respect to the incident rise to the level of criminal behavior.”

Stone himself said during the pretrial hearing that he had no training about such investigations, and acted with good intentions, the Union-Tribune writes. “I have wondered on so many occasions how this went so wrong when I always had the best of intentions,” he said. “I have never lied and have worked at all times to assist as best I could to shed light on what I knew and when I knew it.”

All charges were also dropped against another Marine accused in the case, Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt, 22, who was accused of executing three Iraqi brothers, who were all shot in the head, facing forward, allegedly in violation of the law of war. (Sharatt testified during a pretrial hearing that he shot them in self-defense with a handgun, after his machine gun jammed.)

A total of eight Marines were originally accused in the case: four enlisted Marines were accused of killing civilians in retaliation for a roadside bombing that killed a Marine, and four officers were accused of dereliction for not ordering a war-crimes investigation. Of the civilians killed, 19 were in three nearby houses, and five were pulled from a car. At this point, of the remaining six Marines originally charged, two enlisted Marines are still facing trial, one has had charges dismissed in exchange for agreeing to testify, and today’s initial news reports do not detail what has occurred in the cases of the three other officers.

A snapshot of Stone’s military hearing at Camp Pendleton is provided by a May 9 article in the North County Times, a California newspaper: Stone seemingly resisted conducting a full inquiry into the “shocking” number of civilian deaths at Haditha, a sergeant testified. However, he recalled Stone saying that higher-ups were investigating, and admitted he didn’t know what might or might not be happening with the investigation at that level.

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