Haditha Marine will face no murder charges, only voluntary manslaughter

posted at 2:35 pm on December 31, 2007 by Allahpundit

We had a hunch it was coming but they waited until New Year’s Eve, when the news cycle will be dead for 36 hours, to finally confirm. Lame, boys. Very lame.

Here’s the UCMJ provision on voluntary manslaughter. The textbook example of VM in criminal law is someone walking in on their spouse in bed with someone else and shooting one or both of them in a blind rage. That “blindness” is what distinguishes the crime from murder, just as the intent involved distinguishes it from the lesser charge of negligent homicide (which prosecutors had been considering as an alternative). Presumably they’re going to argue that Wuterich simply went haywire after the IED went off that killed Lance Cpl. Terrazas and ended up gunning down the Iraqis as part of his rampage. The defense will probably try to show that Wuterich followed standard tactics and procedures in assaulting the houses, since the more evidence there is that he was thinking rationally and by the book, the harder it is to believe that he was out of his mind.

Even so, he’s looking at a whole lotta prison if convicted.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

a) Any person subject to this chapter who, with an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation is guilty of voluntary manslaughter and shall be punished as a court- martial may direct.

(b) Any person subject to this chapter who, without an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being–

(1) by culpable negligence; or

(2) while perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate an offense, other than those named in clause (4) of section 918 of this title (article 118), directly affecting the person;

is guilty of involuntary manslaughter and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

At least he will have a jury of his peers.

TheSitRep on December 31, 2007 at 2:39 PM

Somebody desperately needs a fall-guy in this deal, and it looks like Wuterich is it.

Too bad he took the initiative to follow his tactics and procedures training and kill someone in combat.

Yeah… heads should roll… NOT!

What a circus this is turning into.

Lawrence on December 31, 2007 at 2:45 PM

Talk about a face-saving move. A real shame/tragedy this man has to take the fall.

mjk on December 31, 2007 at 2:47 PM

But the all knowing dishonorable Murtha already convicted him.

infidel on December 31, 2007 at 2:55 PM

At least he will have a jury of his peers.

Sorta. His “peers” will all be superior in rank to him and, unless he requests otherwise, all officers. If he requests an enlisted panel, then up to 1/3 of the panel will be enlisted. But again, all superior in rank and none from his company-sized unit.

greenonions on December 31, 2007 at 3:09 PM

Plenty of officers think he’s getting shafted, too. And they’re muuuuuch more his peers than either Murtha or the media.

James on December 31, 2007 at 3:18 PM

Time to start asking candidates about a pardon. Like IN the inaugural speech.

Limerick on December 31, 2007 at 3:21 PM

Plenty of officers think he’s getting shafted, too. And they’re muuuuuch more his peers than either Murtha or the media.

To a point. But will they be on the panel? And, when faced with evidence, will they engage in a little jury nullification? And should they?

greenonions on December 31, 2007 at 3:24 PM

In related news, al queda vowed to prosecute the AQ freedom fighters responsible for taking refuge inside the civilian’s homes and using them for shields while attempting to kill the marines. In addition, al queda leaders in iraq thanked jack murtha for his continued help and support during the difficult aftermath of that 2005 IED attack and subsequent retaliatory fire fight.

locomotivebreath1901 on December 31, 2007 at 3:39 PM

So do the people here think that the marine didn’t kill innocent civilians or just that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for it?

Nonfactor on December 31, 2007 at 3:53 PM

Hey NON,

they (the iraqis) were not innocent and if you followed this from the start you would be aware of it. There is video from an overhead drone that shows the killers fleeing the house…..and no he should not be prosecuted.

robo on December 31, 2007 at 4:02 PM

So do the people here think that the marine didn’t kill innocent civilians or just that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for it?

Nonfactor on December 31, 2007 at 3:53 PM

Most people I know (myself included) who have followed the facts of this story do not believe SGT Wuterich deliberately, recklessly killed innocent civilians and believe he should not be found guilty. Some have also argued that, based on the evidence, he should not even be prosecuted, as it sets a very bad precedent regarding our military making decisions and acting in the heat of battle.

In related news, al queda vowed to prosecute the AQ freedom fighters responsible for taking refuge inside the civilian’s homes and using them for shields while attempting to kill the marines. In addition, al queda leaders in iraq thanked jack murtha for his continued help and support during the difficult aftermath of that 2005 IED attack and subsequent retaliatory fire fight.

locomotivebreath1901 on December 31, 2007 at 3:39 PM

Yep, that is the sad, sorry part of this entire incident. The same people who are outraged at our military for dead civilians hold no such outrage over our enemies deliberately killing civilians.

Michael in MI on December 31, 2007 at 4:03 PM

May God Bless him and the jury free him.

Tim Burton on December 31, 2007 at 4:27 PM

The defense will probably try to show that Wuterich followed standard tactics and procedures in assaulting the houses, since the more evidence there is that he was thinking rationally and by the book, the harder it is to believe that he was out of his mind.

I’m thinkin’ AP meant to write “The prosecution…”

Karl on December 31, 2007 at 4:30 PM

So do the people here think that the marine didn’t kill innocent civilians or just that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for it?

Nonfactor on December 31, 2007 at 3:53 PM

A little of both.

Things I’ve read indicate that some of those who were killed were actually involved in attacks on the troops. One of the witnesses admitted that she expected the blast that preceded the attacks before the bomb went off, and as has already been mentioned, it wasn’t uncommon for insurgents to shield themselves with civilians while firing upon our soldiers.

There’s much to this story.

Esthier on December 31, 2007 at 4:32 PM

I’m thinkin’ AP meant to write “The prosecution…”

Karl on December 31, 2007 at 4:30 PM

Why? The prosecution is claiming he acted out of blind rage.

Esthier on December 31, 2007 at 4:34 PM

So do the people here think that the marine didn’t kill innocent civilians or just that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for it?

Nonfactor on December 31, 2007 at 3:53 PM

sounds like someone who hasn’t been following the case.

Try searching the archives here or going over to Blackfive.net

then you can come back here and ask snarky questions.

I’ll give you a few hints though. Search for:
a. conflicting accounts of significant details to different sources by the same witnesses
b. a survivor (little girl) stating that she was not allowed to go to school that day because her parents knew an IED was going to go off in front of their house.
c. investigate the people who “broke” the story (no not the US media… the Iraqis that just “happened” to be there with a video camera to “document” the aftermath).
d. intel from captured insurgents that this was planned Al Qaeda propaganda stunt that was attempted previously.

There are plenty of vets like me who know that in combat things change fast, mistakes are made, and people die. You have to judge their actions form their state of mind at the time… not second guessing from the safety of your living room. These guys were/are being sacrificed at the political altar.

BadBrad on December 31, 2007 at 4:48 PM

BadBrad on December 31, 2007 at 4:48 PM

Well done, Brad.

Patrick S on December 31, 2007 at 4:59 PM

Nonfactor on December 31, 2007 at 3:53 PM

I don’t know why people insist on treating this war as a law enforcement issue. If the threat of murder charges is hanging over the heads of every soldier whom we send into combat to kill people we will never make progress. Leave the soldiers to do their jobs. Mistakes will be made, but these are soldiers, not civilians. The entire incident is regrettable, of course, but when the enemy is routinely found hiding in homes or behind women and children, our professional, uniformed (a great advantage for the enemy, seeing as we don’t give our troops civilian clothes, and kids to use as walking time bombs), highly skilled soldiers aren’t left with much leeway. Is that kid carrying a bomb? Is the woman in the market carrying a weapon? Are there Al Qaeda hiding in the house around the corner? With an enemy like ours, who can know?

fourstringfuror on December 31, 2007 at 5:07 PM

Try searching the archives here or going over to Blackfive.net…

BadBrad on December 31, 2007 at 4:48 PM

Excellent post, BadBrad.

And speaking of Blackfive, Uncle Jimbo has put up a post about this, which includes a link to his previous post on the topic.

Michael in MI on December 31, 2007 at 5:27 PM

fourstringfuror on December 31, 2007 at 5:07 PM

Good points, fourstringfuror. In the eyes of the safe and ignorant, our military is in a completely lose-lose situation. If they do their jobs and civilians are killed as a result of the illegal tactics of the enemy, our military is demonized as a bunch of cold-blooded babykillers who are worn down and cannot handle the pressures of war. However, if they are killed by going out of their way to try their damndest to protect the lives of innocent civilians and, in the process, are put in vulnerable situations that the enemy exploits and kills them, then the anti-war/military folks have another fatality statistic and name to use to their benefit in protesting the war effort.

No matter what they do, they cannot please these people.

That said, I have read some of the best analysis and discussion of this incident at military blogs such as Blackfive and Mudville Gazette. Hopefully people are reading those sites when it comes to military news.

Michael in MI on December 31, 2007 at 5:32 PM

So do the people here think that the marine didn’t kill innocent civilians or just that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for it?

Nonfactor on December 31, 2007 at 3:53 PM

Personally I don’t know if he killed innocent civilians. But this is not the immediate question.

If he was following his tactics and procedures, as trained, then any civilians caught in the cross-fire are collateral damage. It isn’t his fault that the enemy was using civilians as shields, expecially if he couldn’t tell who was a civilian and who was an enemy.

The UCMJ panel will be reviewing the scenario and the immediate actions taken in that scenario. The officers on the panel are not going to shaft him if he was following orders, as in following immediate response procedures.

Let us not assume guilt until proven innocent.

Lawrence on December 31, 2007 at 5:50 PM

BadBrad on December 31, 2007 at 4:48 PM

Great comment Sir – however, Nonfactor lives in an alternate and perfect universe. You and the active ones grant him/her, and similar cohorts, that naive existence.

Entelechy on December 31, 2007 at 6:31 PM

The fog of war.

Fight to win. That’s all we can do.

Zorro on December 31, 2007 at 10:04 PM

a) Any person subject to this chapter who, with an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation is guilty of voluntary manslaughter and shall be punished as a court- martial may direct.

The two keys in this case will be:
1) the degree of “provocation,” and
2) whether the killings were “lawful” – within the soldier’s knowledge of the facts at the time.

I think it’s unlikely a military jury will convict on the manslaughter charge. Under the circumstances, that would make no sense. The “execution-style killings” crap was nothing but a bunch of media lies. All the evidence says the Marines were clearing buildings, and if this case convicts a soldier for that then this war – and all future wars – are lost.

As for the aggravated assault and reckless endangerment charges, those could go either way. Dereliction of duty is a much lower standard, and that’s the kind of thing he could easily get stuck with as a default.

As for the obstruction of justice, I really don’t know. I’d think the Lieutenant is totally screwed on that, but I don’t know what kind of reports the Sergeant was responsible for.

logis on December 31, 2007 at 10:52 PM

From the yahoo article: “was hit by a roadside bomb that destroyed a Humvee and killed a popular comrade.”

Did the reporter mean to infer that had the comrade been unpopular the casualties would have been less?

Freakin’ reporters with agendas.

sheesh

God Bless this young man, and may he prevail.

Tim Zank on January 1, 2008 at 9:54 AM

Did the reporter mean to infer that had the comrade been unpopular the casualties would have been less?
Tim Zank on January 1, 2008 at 9:54 AM

Actually, that’s pretty much the whole allegation in a nutshell. The press and the prosecution are claiming that the squad went on a wild rampage, slaughtering random bystanders, solely because terrorists killed that one guy.

But yeah, unless Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy screwed things up a lot worse than we thought, it’s a little hard to see exactly why’d all become so madly infatuated the fellow.

logis on January 1, 2008 at 12:59 PM

Michael in MI on December 31, 2007 at 5:32 PM

This is a personal issue for me, as my cousin’s husband is currently in Iraq with the Army. As Rush Limbaugh repeats on his show so often, war is hell. To think it can be anything else is irresponsible and dangerous. This isn’t kindergarten recess, people; we can’t cry foul and have the teacher come sort it out for us. The rules of engagement are not honored by our enemy and thus are effectively null and void.

It’s amazing that we’re worked up about a few innocent people being killed during the middle of a war. Collateral damage is nothing new; ever heard of the Civil War? Sherman’s march to Atlanta? How about the Revolutionary War? If you side with the Continental Army, you were with the enemy, which made you the enemy. Homes and livestock were torched, and people were shot.

The point here is that we are about to put on trial a brave man who willingly entered the service, put himself in harm’s way, and lived with the threat of death over his head, only to find the real enemy was back home pointing fat fingers at him and demanding he be punished for doing his job.

fourstringfuror on January 1, 2008 at 3:58 PM

The one thing about “using civilians as shields” that those who blather on about the Geneva Convention and the Rules of War INEVITABLY leave out is that civilians used as shields are EXPRESSLY not a protected class. (Article 28 IVGC)

How could they be? To do so would be to encourage the use of civilians as shields from attack, and endanger civilians even more.

The entire exercise is a frakking waste of time. There is adequate evidence that hostile parties were present and attacking, that the civilians in question were not only used as human shields but at least some participated in, or at least passively accepted, the attacks.

One of the leftist strategies from the beginning of this was was the “perfect as enemy of the good” strategy – also known as the “white knight” strategy. You place impossible standards of perfect on, and ONLY on, the party you wish to lose – i.e. America. Some lefties actually go so far as to directly refuse to criticize terrorists because “they expect them to act like that.”

As I’ve observed before, they worst thing you can do in the eyes of a leftist is to defy their expectations – it’s worse than mass-murder. Look at how viciously they attack “their own” or people they think should be on their side when a disagreement occurs – Liebermann being driven out, horrible racist attacks on Dr. Rice, ad nauseum.

The only thing you can do when they ask stupid questions or try to steer the discussion that way is point out what they’re doing. It won’t stop them, but it might snap a few passive viewers out of their hypnotic trance.

Good luck with people who “watch the news every night,” though. It’s like digging through concrete with a spoon.

Merovign on January 2, 2008 at 3:35 PM