June 18, 2008
A military judge dismissed all charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the highest-ranking Marine to be charged in the Haditha case and the sixth individual to have all charges dropped. [A seventh Marine was court-martialed and found not guilty.]
The judge ruled that Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who made the decision to press charges in the Haditha case, had improperly allowed an investigator, who would be a potential witness for the prosecution, to be present during discussions about whether to prosecute the case. "The appearance of unlawful command influence is as devastating as actual manipulation of a trial," the judge said.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the ruling "not only marked the latest setback for prosecutors ... but it also set the military community abuzz because it's extremely unusual for a judge to second-guess a top general."
Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich is the sole remaining defendant still facing court-martial. In March 2008, as jury selection in his trial was set to begin, all charges were dropped against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum.