Trial Resumes of Marine Accused in Haditha Killings

January 20, 2012

Photo: A Jan. 9, 2008 file photo shows Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich arriving for his arraignment at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in San Diego County. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Watch our 2008 film Rules of Engagement— the untold story of what happened in Haditha and how it forced the U.S. military to confront the rules of war in a way it never had to before.

Following an abrupt two-day break, the trial of Marine Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich resumed today at Camp Pendleton, indicating that Wuterich declined to accept a deal offered by the prosecution. Yesterday, The Los Angeles Times speculated on Wuterich’s options:

If he takes a deal, he could immediately leave the Marine Corps and continue life as a divorced father of three daughters. But that deal could come with a kind of discharge that would keep him from being eligible for veterans benefits.

But if he decides to continue fighting the charges against him  — manslaughter, assault and dereliction of duty — he could end up with a conviction on one or more of the counts, which would also bring a discharge under less than honorable grounds.

Wuterich is one of eight Marines who were charged in the deaths of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha, in the biggest war-crimes case out of the war in Iraq. Over the past several years, charges against the seven other Marines were dropped, dismissed or fell apart in court.

Nathaniel Helms of Defend Our Marines reports that Wuterich was on the verge of accepting a deal, but decided in the end to fight for an honorable discharge and to have his name fully cleared. Wuterich may have decided to stick it out because, as we reported yesterday, so far the prosecution has not presented the strongest case.

Court resumed this morning with the testimony of Sgt. Humberto Mendoza, who testified on Wednesday that Wuterich had not ordered him to shoot any civilians. Prosecutors gave Mendoza immunity to testify against Wuterich.

Following Mendoza’s testimony, jurors are expected to watch excerpts from a 2007 interview Wuterich gave to 60 Minutes, including outtakes not seen by the public.

The prosecution is expected to wrap up their case next week.

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