I knew something was up. Wuterich’s always been the focus: He led the assault on the houses and was charged with 13 counts of murder before they dialed it down to voluntary manslaughter. Another Marine, Sanick De La Cruz, got the same deal last year that Tatum’s getting now, presumably so that he can tell the court about Wuterich allegedly shooting five Iraqi men in cold blood and then pissing on one of their corpses.

They need one conviction out of this mess to avoid a complete fiasco, so they’re going for broke.

Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, who has admitted shooting civilians inside their homes as part of a pursuit of insurgents, was cleared and granted immunity to testify in further hearings related to the investigation. The move leaves only Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich to face charges in connection with the shootings on Nov. 19, 2005…

Officials close to the Haditha case said they think prosecutors dismissed the charges in order to pursue Wuterich aggressively at trial. The cases against three of the Marines accused of shooting civilians have fallen apart, and Wuterich remains the only one left for prosecutors to target for accountability. Wuterich led the Marine squad and allegedly told his troops, as they approached a group of civilian homes that day, to shoot first and ask questions later.

Jack Zimmermann, a civilian lawyer who represents Tatum, said yesterday that his client will testify if called as a witness but emphasized that no deal was struck in exchange for his testimony. Tatum’s statements to investigators place Wuterich in the homes and indicate that Wuterich was shooting at civilians, and that Tatum followed suit. Wuterich’s lawyers have disputed that account.

Here again is the relevant excerpt from the inspecting officer’s report on Tatum; note the second sentence. A critical question at Wuterich’s upcoming court-martial: How reasonable was his judgment that the house was hostile?

haditha3.jpg

Update: To reiterate a point made in the blockquote, Tatum didn’t agree to any deal with prosecutors to testify against Wuterich. Prosecutors immunized him of their own accord so that he couldn’t claim his right against self-incrimination when they called him to testify. Commenters are objecting that my headline is misleading without that clarification, so there you go. Duly clarified.