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U.S. Opens Case Against Marines for Alleged Murder

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U.S. Opens Case Against Marines for Alleged Murder


U.S. Opens Case Against Marines for Alleged Murder

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The agency responsible for finding ways to meet pollution goals will be the California Air Resources Board. That agency has compiled a timeline of this state's epic battles against pollution. Its website features an old black and white newsreel showing cars and buildings engulfed in a thick, white blur.

(Soundbite of newsreel)

Unidentified Announcer: Los Angeles suffers the worst blanket of smog in its history. The giant California city is shrouded by the ugly mist, dangerous to health and traffic.


It was the summer of 1943 when heavy smog was first recorded in Los Angeles. Choking residents called it a gas attack. A nearby chemical plant was shut down, but the smog did not improve. It became an emblem of the city, as much a part of L.A. as suburban sprawl.

MONTAGNE: Not until the 1990s did new clean air laws make a visible difference. Los Angeles residents finally got a clearer view of the mountains that surround downtown. Now with its measures against climate change, California says it wants to fight a less visible but a much larger threat.

INSKEEP: Also in California, U.S. military prosecutors have begun to lay out their case against seven Marines and a Navy corpsman. They're accused of committing murder while serving in Iraq. Authorities say they dragged an Iraqi from his home, killed him, and then tried to make him seem like an insurgent. The incident in Hamdaniyah was one of several that called attention to the conduct of American troops.

NPR's John McChesney reports now on how the military is conducting its court proceedings at Camp Pendleton.


Under normal circumstances, military prosecutors use this kind of hearing to present a testimony of investigators and eyewitness accounts, as well as confessions or statement by the accused. But that didn't happen in yesterday's separate hearings for Corporal Marshall Magincalda and Private First Class John Jodka.

Both the prosecution and the defense agreed to submit the evidence only in writing, without discussing it in open court. Just one reporter, Linda Deutsch of the Associated Press, was allowed a seat in Corporal Jodka's hearing. She tells here what one of Jodka's attorneys, Jane Siegel, said about the government's evidence.

Ms. LINDA DEUTSCH (Associated Press): She said to openly discuss the contents will completely pollute the local and national jury pool. Some of it is very inflammatory. There is a media audience for this, she said, that is unprecedented in Camp Pendleton history.

MCCHESNEY: Prosecutors alleged that Corporal Magincalda helped bind the feet of Hashim Ibrahim Awad and then helped carry him to a roadside hole where he was shot by four others, including Pfc. Jodka. Iraqi witnesses say a shovel and an AK47 rifle were placed in the hole alongside Awad to make it appear that he was planting a bomb. Defense attorneys have suggested that the Iraqis, in the village of Hamdaniyah, made those accusations against the eight servicemen in order to shake down money from the U.S. government. And defense attorneys have argued that statements from the accused - confessions, the government calls them - were coerced.

Again, reporter Linda Deutsch recounts how another Jodka lawyer, Joseph Casas, characterized the government's evidence in the hearing.

Ms. DEUTSCH: At the end of the day, all we have are unreliable, uncorroborated statements and no physical evidence. And he said he no longer thinks it's possible for Private First Class Jodka to get a fair trial. We recommend that you dismiss the charges.

MCCHESNEY: Awad's body was exhumed and brought to the U.S. for autopsy. NPR has learned that he was shot 14 times. On another note, Jodka's attorney, Casas, said his client would be unable to face his Iraqi accusers because the defense had not been able to contact them. One piece of good news for Jodka: the prosecution said it wouldn't seek the death penalty for him.

But there is some evidence that the defense attorneys in this case may find more difficult to deal with. NPR learned that one of the defendants, Corporal Trent Thomas, made two home videos, one mentioning the killing of a civilian and another saying, we've done something wrong. At least one of those videos was entered into evidence.

Hearings for the other six servicemen accused in this case will take place in September and October.

John McChesney, NPR News, Camp Pendleton, California.


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