Charges Dropped Against Marine in Haditha Murder

Charges against one of the Marines in the Haditha killings have been dropped, but it's not because he wasn't involved.

Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, 24, had been charged with premeditated murder and making a false report in the November 19, 2005, deaths, which damaged U.S. prestige and led to international condemnation.

``Charges against him were dismissed on April 2 after the government balanced his low level of culpability in the alleged crime against the potential value of his testimony,'' a Marine Corps statement said.

Two dozen Iraqi men, women and children were killed in this raid.

Three Marines remain charged with murder and four others are charged with dereliction of duty for failing to properly report and investigate the shooting deaths of the two dozen Iraqi men, women and children.

Was this deal really necessary? Why not make Dela Cruz plead to the dereliction of duty count? Why reward him with a complete dismissal? How trustworthy will his testimony be?

TalkLeft's prior coverage of the Haditha killings is accessible here.

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    I don't know, but tonight I am (none / 0) (#1)
    by jerry on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 11:53:38 PM EST
    Was this deal really necessary? Why not make Dela Cruz plead to the dereliction of duty count? Why reward him with a complete dismissal? How trustworthy will his testimony be?

    I don't know, and I rarely like these deals.  Tonight I am hoping the House will do the right thing wrt Monica Goodling.

    Frankly, I would like to see her squeezed a bit more before granting her immunity.

    Oliver North still bugs the heck out of me.

    The weak link (none / 0) (#2)
    by HK on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 04:05:35 AM EST
    This kind of deal-cutting undermines the US justice system on so many levels.  It happens all the time, just mostly on cases that do not have as high a profile as this one.

    It seems that in this case his testimony is like penance and in saying the words he is absolved from his sins.

    I can't help but wonder if this deal would have been cut if the victims had been white Americans.

    Frank Wuterich is sticking to a story (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 08:01:36 AM EST
    that they received fire from the homes where the massacre took place.  He is saying they went into the homes after insurgents.  Under those circumstances it is a fight to get a guilty verdict if he was operating according to the rules of engagement being used at that time. Nobody knows for certain in these instances but I tend to think that Dela Cruz is going to testify that the rules of engagement were breached when the families were killed.  If they can prove that then they will get their guilty verdicts.

    he's a psycopath (none / 0) (#5)
    by Sailor on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 09:21:02 AM EST
    "I told them to treat it as a hostile environment," Wuterich told investigators. "I told them to shoot first, ask questions later."

    Defense attorneys have argued that the men were following their "rules of engagement." The Marine division's Rules of Engagement card in effect at the time in western Iraq instructed Marines to "ALWAYS minimize collateral damage" and said targets must be positively identified as threats before a Marine can open fire. It also told Marines that "nothing on this card prevents you from using all force necessary to defend yourself."

    , shooting unmoving, unarmed civilians in the back, pi$$ing on their corpses, attacking 2 houses in a row and tossing grenades into rooms full of women and children might be just a tad over the top.

    nice folks (none / 0) (#4)
    by Sailor on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 09:17:38 AM EST
    A U.S. Marine charged with murdering 18 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq, said in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" he regretted the deaths but would make the same decisions today.

    Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich admitted shooting five unarmed Iraqi men in the back in the interview and said his actions were justified because he believed the men had hostile intent toward the Marines.

    "There is nothing that I can possibly say to make up or make well the deaths of those women and children, and I am absolutely sorry it happened that day," Wuterich said.

    "What I did that day, the decision that I made, I would make those decisions again today. Those are decisions that I made in a combat situation and I believe I had to make those decisions."

    The shooting of the men near the taxi was the first in a series of violence responses by the Marines to the roadside bombing, according to a defense department official familiar with a report by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The Marines subsequently raided four nearby houses, killing 18 unarmed civilians inside three of the residences, the report said. One other Iraqi was shot dead outside. Among the dead were women and children.

    interesting ROEs:
    Dela Cruz told investigators that he pumped bullets into the bodies of the Iraqi men after they were on the ground and later urinated on one of them.
    Wuterich, Mendoza and Tatum said, they moved to a second house after suspecting insurgents might have escaped. Mendoza said the second house was approached the same way, as hostile, according to his sworn statement. Mendoza said he shot to death a man, Yunis Rasif, 43, through a glass kitchen door.

    Marines entered the house and tossed grenades before firing into a back bedroom, later found filled with women and children.

    The men in the taxi (none / 0) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 11:57:08 AM EST
    were thought to have been who planted the roadside bomb according to Wuterich.  The houses were attacked because he is claiming they received fire from those houses.  I'm not condoning anything that was done, only stating what the challenges are in making the charges stick and why they would have dropped Dela Cruz's charges if he is going to testify that they didn't receive fire from those houses.  If they didn't receive fire from those homes then under the ROE in use at that time those people were murdered.

    I disagree (none / 0) (#7)
    by Sailor on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 01:22:43 PM EST
    shooting unarmed men in the back is against the rules of humanity, much less the ROEs.

    Pi$$ing on the corpses was just a little harmless fun I guess.


    I understand your emotional take on (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 08:54:17 AM EST
    it all and I agree.  We have to operate within the outline of the reality we have though and if you want people to go to jail for what happened in Haditha then we have to deal with laws as they apply to it as well as our emotional response to what happened.  Considering what took place around roadside bombs in the past in Iraq we aren't going to be able to get any kind of conviction for killing the men in the taxi.  The soldiers can cite that they felt their lives were in danger from the men in the taxi.  I'm not saying you have to like any of it.  I'm just laying it out there as it is as far as getting convictions on what happened in Haditha.