Attorney Neal A. Puckett told The Washington Times that Gen. Michael Hagee, the Marine commandant, briefed Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, on the Nov. 19 killings of 24 Iraqis in the town north of Baghdad. Mr. Murtha later told reporters that the Marines were guilty of killing the civilians in “cold blood.” Mr. Murtha said he based his statement on Marine commanders, whom he did not identify.
Mr. Puckett said such public comments from a congressman via senior Marines amount to “unlawful command influence.” He said potential Marine jurors could be biased by the knowledge that their commandant, the Corps’ top officer, thinks the Haditha Marines are guilty.
There won’t be any panels devoted to this leak investigation at the next Yearly Kos, I assure you.
Puckett says it’s only right that Murtha should have to testify. The trial’s inevitable at this point, due in no small part to Murtha’s own fat mouth:
“If the NCIS has done a good job in this investigation, then Marine commanders will not feel compelled to charge these guys with homicide,” Mr. Puckett said.
“But since Congressman Murtha has already judged these guys in public and folks have alleged a Marine Corp cover-up, I’m afraid that the Marine Corps will feel compelled to put these guys on trial to prove the Marine Corps hasn’t done anything wrong in terms of a cover-up.”
Two things. One: if the case falls apart, shouldn’t Wuterich et al be able to sue Murtha for defamation? They weren’t public figures at the time so they shouldn’t have to show malice. Two: what if Murtha gives up Hagee as his source? Does that set up a “Few Good Men” showdown between Puckett and Hagee? Who ordered the code red on Sgt. Wuterich?
Murtha’s on the House floor today debating the resolution opposing a fixed date of withdrawal from Iraq. Note the photo of Neil Abercrombie, who proves finally and officially that Hawaii’s representatives are the very worst in the land. Your quote of the day, from Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick of Michigan: “America, listen. Look. Should we stay the course or should we have a plan of redeployment to protect our troops and to protect America?”
Update: Goldstein digs the idea of Murtha testifying as much as I do.
Update: Not exactly a surprise but I have to flag it:
A lawyer for one of the Marines under investigation, who also declined to be identified, said that Hammurabi was not a known or registered human rights organization and had no track record of reporting any other abuses.
“And it turns out these two employees have family members spending time in local prisons for insurgent activity,” the attorney said. “I think the origins of the tape would have been better suited if it came from somebody who really did have altruistic motives in their heart.”…
The source said the tape also lacked credibility because there was nothing in the footage to establish that it was shot where and when Hammurabi claims and because it did not surface until four months after the incident.