Shocking or not? Read this Haditha post from last month, including and especially the update, and you’ll see why the investigating officer has such a hard time believing, as Murtha does, that the Marines killed anyone “in cold blood.” Murder charges against two others have already been dismissed based on the same facts; it stands to reason that they’d be dismissed against Wuterich too. On the other hand, Wuterich was the star defendant with 13 counts of murder against him. One of the other Marines, Sanick De La Cruz, made a deal with the government specifically so that he could testify for the prosecution against him. If he walks, there won’t be a single murder conviction to come out of the incident.

A Marine Corps official has recommended that murder charges be dismissed against a Camp Pendleton squad leader accused in the deaths of 17 civilians killed in the Iraqi city of Haditha two years ago.

The official, Lt. Col. Paul Ware, said in a recommendation obtained by the North County Times that rather than face murder charges, squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich should be tried for the lesser offense of negligent homicide in the deaths of five children and two women.

Ware recommended 10 other murder charges against Wuterich be dismissed.

“I believe after reviewing all the evidence that no trier of fact can conclude Staff Sgt. Wuterich formed the criminal intent to kill,” Ware wrote in reference to the women and children. “When a Marine fails to exercise due care and civilians die, the charge of negligent homicide, and not murder, is appropriate.”

Negligent homicide carries a three-year sentence but with seven counts potentially against him he’s still looking at a long prison stay. The final call belongs to Gen. James Mattis, who can either accept Ware’s recommendation of dismissal or press on. He did take his advice in the case of the other two Marines, which bodes well for Wuterich. As for Murtha, as I recall his line on this has always been that the Marines acted out of “fatigue” or “exhaustion” caused by the stress of extended tours. That’s his way of shifting blame away from the troops, whom the left is always leery about faulting, and over to Bush, who can be safely demonized. If Wuterich is convicted on negligent homicide charges Murtha will simply spin it as vindication of his theory. If he isn’t convicted, well, then Happy Jack’s going to have himself a tough month in the blogosphere, at least.