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Haditha Marines Face Dismissal For Lying To Investigators

Evening Edition

Above: Neal Puckett, the attorney who represented former Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich during his court marshal for the Haditha incident, spoke to KPBS about the Navy's recent decision to hold separation hearings for two other Marines involved in the case.

Aired 4/23/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guest

Neal Puckett is the attorney who represented former Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich during his court marshal.

Transcript

Marine Sgt. Humberto M. Mendoza faces expulsion from the Corps for lying to investigators in connection with his role in the deaths of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005.

Above: Marine Sgt. Humberto M. Mendoza faces expulsion from the Corps for lying to investigators in connection with his role in the deaths of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005.

Marine Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz faces expulsion from the Corps for lying to investigators in connection with his role in the deaths of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005.

Above: Marine Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz faces expulsion from the Corps for lying to investigators in connection with his role in the deaths of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recently decided to order separation procedures for two Marines who admitted to lying about the 2005 shooting deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha.

Neal Puckett, the attorney who represented former Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the only Marine who pleaded guilty in the case, said he thought Mabus' decision was not about justice for the Haditha victims, but a "visceral, emotional reaction" to finding out the Marines had lied.

Eight Marines were initially charged for the 2005 incident in the city of Haditha that left 24 unarmed Iraqis dead. One Marine was acquitted and six others had their cases dropped. Puckett told KPBS in January the other Marines' charges were dismissed in exchange for their testimony against Wuterich.

Wuterich pleaded guilty to one count of negligent dereliction of duty.

Puckett also said in that interview the public may never know the truth behind the trial. He told KPBS today that at least half the witnesses who testified "we know lied because we've conducted our own more thorough investigation than that of (Naval Criminal Investigative Service)."

Most disturbing, he said, is that the two Marines now subject to separation proceedings, Sgts. Sanick P. Dela Cruz and Humberto M. Mendoza, admitted to lying.

"Back in 2006, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents told the prosecutors that these individuals, particularly Sgt. Dela Cruz, was lying to them about his version of events, yet they chose to proceed with the false or perjured testimony anyway," Puckett said. "And that raises ethical concerns for we as attorneys."

Puckett said he thinks the Marine Corps tried to paint his client as a "single rogue individual" to avoid taking responsibility as an institution.

"If all Marines who fired their weapons that day had been charged and held to account for their own actions individually, perhaps justice might have been found in some way, shape, or form," he said.

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