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Military Justice Itself May Be On Trial In Camp Pendleton’s Last Haditha Case

Above: Frank Wuterich is the last of his squad to be on trial for the Haditha case.

Aired 1/10/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


KPBS Senior Metro Reporter Alison St John

David Michael Brahms United States Marine Corp, Brigadier General (Ret.), he's a practicing Military Attorney with an office in Carlsbad.


The Haditha trial is underway at Camp Pendleton more than six years after 24 Iraqi civilians, including women and children, were killed by a squad of US Marines. Opening statements by both prosecution and defense have been delivered.

Combat experience and the Marine rules of engagement are both major factors in Camp Pendleton's Haditha trial.

Location of Haditha in Iraq.
Enlarge this image

Above: Location of Haditha in Iraq.

As Frank Wuterich, the last Marine who will be tried, in connection with killing civilians in Haditha, Iraq,

On KPBS Midday Edition, we're asking: How does the way the military views justice differ from civilian law?

Some observers are predicting another acquittal, as all the previously tried Marines have been acquitted of their charges. We'll find out the possible political implications of failing to punish anyone for the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians, including 11 women and children.

KPBS Senior Metro Correspondent Alison St John was in the courtroom Monday. She'll speak with us today.

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Avatar for user 'JusticeForMarines'

JusticeForMarines | January 10, 2012 at 3:49 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Actually the comment that Ms. St. John made, which I believe was recounting what a law professor told her, concerning the differences between the prosecution and defense was inaccurate.

It is the prosecution in this case that has been the same since the inception of the charges being filed. The law professor was correct that usually there is a 3 year rotation but the Marine legal command waived that for the current prosecutors and they have been the same the entire time. Instead, it has been the defense legal team that has suffered losses because the Marines forcibly retired two of Wuterich's senior military counsel and transferred another member. Gen. Brahams mentioned this became the subject of legal proceedings.

One really has to question the fairness of the system when the Pentagon tries to stack the deck by allowing continuity for the prosecution members while trying to undermine the make-up of the defense legal team.

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Avatar for user 'Alison St John'

Alison St John, KPBS Staff | January 11, 2012 at 2:15 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Thank you for expanding on this issue ... I understand the prosecution has lost at least two members of their team over the course of this case. The military has not postponed retirement for two members of the defense team, which forced Haytham Faraj to continue defending Wuterich as a civilian attorney.

It seems this is an important aspect of the case, since Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III, had his murder conviction thrown out in another war crimes trial, because an appeals court deemed it unfair that one of his defense attorneys was retired before trial.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 11, 2012 at 3:45 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

24 innocent people lost their lives.

Innocent people.

Someone's loved ones.

It will be pretty shameful if all people involved are acquitted.

Thanks you Ms. St. John for this article. This certainly is not the first time I have questioned "military justice". Over the years and throughout the wars we see shams take place in military courts.

It seems like the cases are decided on either acquitting everyone, or making one person the "fall guy" to make an example out of for political purposes.

It doesn't seem like any decisions are ever made based on a true assessment of the evidence.

Is there a reason to believe this will be any different?

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | January 11, 2012 at 4:14 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

The fact that people die in wars does not necessarily imply that the 24 who died here were victims of voluntary manslaughter or murder. Let the jury look at the evidence and decide if it is shameful to acquit the defendant. I'm sure the result will be reported, if not the details.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 11, 2012 at 6:53 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

"When a Pentagon reporter from the Washington Post, was charged with following up the My Lai stories, he called Hersh and said bitterly, 'You son of a b____, where do you get off writing a lie like that?'" -- from the introduction by David Remnick in Seymour Hersh, CHAIN OF COMMAND: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, (Harper, 2005)

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