Haditha Proceedings Begin with Marine Lawyer
Haditha Proceedings Begin with Marine Lawyer
Haditha: A Timeline
Haditha, a Sunni stronghold located 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, was the site of a roadside bomb explosion in August 2005 that killed 14 U.S. Marines. Three months later, U.S. Marines allegedly killed as many as 24 unarmed civilians there during combat operations. Three enlisted Marines are charged with murder and four officers with dereliction of duty.
May 8, 2007: The military's equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, known as an Article 32 hearing, begins at Camp Pendleton, Calif., for Capt. Randy Stone, a military attorney. He is one of four Marine officers charged with failing to properly investigate the Haditha killings.
April 2, 2007: Charges are dismissed against Marine Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, one of four enlisted soldiers who was accused in the incident. He is granted testimonial immunity.
Dec. 21, 2006: The Marines file charges of unpremeditated murder against Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, Sgt. Dela Cruz, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt and Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum. Charges of dereliction of duty charges for failing to investigate are filed against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, Capt. Lucas McConnell, Capt. Stone and 1st Lt. Andrew A Grayson. Grayson also faces charges of making a false official statement and of obstruction of justice.
Aug. 2, 2006: Military investigators find evidence supporting allegations that U.S. Marines deliberately fired on unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha, according to unnamed Pentagon sources.
June 16, 2006: A military investigation of training and preparation of Marines prior to the Haditha incident and the reporting of information concerning the incident is forwarded to Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. The report finds no evidence of a cover-up, but instead says that officers failed to ask the right questions or press the Marines soldiers about what happened.
June 6, 2006: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA), says his panel won't investigate Haditha until the Pentagon completes its own investigation. But he renews his pledge to hold open hearings on the incident.
May 31, 2006: President Bush makes his first public comments about the deaths in Haditha, promising that "If in fact laws were broken, there will be punishment."
May 30, 2006: In his first statement on the case, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says in a television interview that the killings of civilians in Haditha were not justified and expressed remorse over the deaths.
May 28, 2006: Sen. Warner says the panel will hold hearings on the Haditha incident.
May 17, 2006: Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), a former Marine, speaks about the Haditha deaths, saying that U.S. troops "killed innocent civilians in cold blood."
March 19, 2006: Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli appoints Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell to investigate two major aspects of what happened in Haditha: training and preparation of Marines prior to the engagement and the reporting of the incident at all levels of the chain of command.
March 17, 2006: Lt. Gen. Chiarelli summarizes the events at Haditha and the preliminary investigation into Marine involvement in the deaths, promising to "thoroughly investigate" the incident.
March 12, 2006: The top Marine commander in Western Iraq, Richard Zilmer, determines there is enough evidence from Watt's preliminary report to mount a full criminal investigation into the Haditha incident and requests the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) to proceed with a probe.
March 3, 2006: Army Col. Gregory Watt completes preliminary investigation of Haditha deaths, recommends further investigation.
Feb. 10, 2006: A Time magazine reporter contacts military sources in Baghdad to question the circumstances at Haditha.
Nov. 20, 2005: The Marines release a preliminary report claiming that an improvised explosive device killed 15 Iraqis and one Marine in the Nov. 19 incident. Subsequently, the number of civilian deaths is revised to 24, including 11 women and children.
Nov. 19, 2005: A Marine and Iraqi civilians are killed in Haditha.
Nearly a year and half after 24 Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. Marines in the village of Haditha, legal proceedings are getting under way today at Camp Pendleton in Southern California.
Seven Marines face charges. First up is Capt. Randy Stone, who is accused of failing to investigate the killings. Stone faces the military equivalent of a grand jury investigation.
Prosecutors say the Marines went on a rampage in November 2005, after a fellow Marine was killed by a roadside bomb. The Marines allegedly started by ordering five men out of a taxi and then systematically gunning them down. From there, they allegedly burst into houses in the village of Haditha and killed 19 others, some of them women and children.
Four officers have been charged with failing to report the killings, while three enlisted men have been charged with unpremeditated murder in the case.
One of the enlisted men is 25-year-old Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who led a Marine squad during the incident. He is charged with 18 murders and with lying about what happened.
Wuterich is the only Marine who has spoken publicly about Haditha. He told CBS's 60 Minutes how they cleared a room in a house he believed was a source of hostile fire:
"Kicked in the door, the grenade goes in, the grenade goes off and the first man enters the room, and engages the people in the room," Wuterich said for the CBS microphones.
Wuterich had no positive identification that the people in the room were enemies. He was asked what he saw when he entered the room.
"I remember there ... may have been women in there," he told CBS. "There may have been children in there."
Tuesday, prosecutors will not be focusing on those who did the shooting, but on one of the officers who failed to investigate.
Capt. Randy Stone was the battalion judge advocate. He told The New York Times that his superior told him "we don't do investigations for troops in contact situations." That's military jargon for combat with enemy fighters.
Two of Stone's superiors, his commander and the division commander, also saw no reason to investigate. They are expected to testify at the hearing.
Stone's lawyer, Charles Gittins, says the Marines are trying to make his client a scapegoat.
"They've gone after Captain Stone because it's convenient to go after the lowest-level guy and make him the guy holding the bag," Gittins said. "But the truth of the matter is there were judge advocates at every level, all of whom had exactly the same information as Captain Stone and none of whom believed there was a reason to investigate."
Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell conducted an investigation into the conduct of the Marines surrounding the Haditha incident. The report has not been made public, but according to The Washington Post, it contains scathing criticism of the Marines for valuing Iraqi lives less than American lives.
There will be testimony today about some of the circumstances of the killings. But attorney Charles Gittins says in the hearing for Stone, the details of the shootings are irrelevant.
"I really, frankly cannot concern myself with the shooting aspect of the case because my client's not charged with.... He never visited that place, he never saw the photographs that were taken. All he knew was that a number of civilian casualties had been incurred."
Stone's Article 32 hearing is expected to last for the rest of this week.