Third Guilty Plea In Killing Of Iraqi By A Marine Patrol

November 7th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Third Guilty Plea In Killing Of Iraqi By A Marine Patrol

New York Times
November 7, 2006
By Carolyn Marshall
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Nov. 6 — A marine corporal pleaded guilty on Monday in the shooting death of an unarmed Iraqi in April, the third person charged in the case to do so.
As part of a plea agreement, the marine, Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, received reduced charges of aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Corporal Jackson said Monday at his court-martial here that he knew that the killing was unlawful when it occurred. Initially charged with seven others with kidnapping and premeditated murder, he avoided the more serious charges as part of a plea agreement to testify against fellow squad members.
A military judge set sentencing for Nov. 16.
Corporal Jackson, 23, accepted the deal last week, after months of proclaiming his innocence as he remained in the brig.
Seven marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with kidnapping and killing the Iraqi, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, who died of multiple gunshot wounds on April 26, and with covering up the crime.
Another marine, Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., has also been negotiating a plea, defense lawyers said.
At the court-martial on Monday, Corporal Jackson gave testimony about the killing that closely tracked testimony by the two others who have pleaded guilty.
He said the men were on patrol near Hamdaniya searching for Saleh Gowad, an insurgent who repeatedly planted bombs, including one that was thought to have killed four members of a platoon in his company.
The corporal testified that the men kidnapped and killed a man they believed to be Mr. Gowad, but who was Mr. Awad, staging the scene to make it appear as if there had been a gunfight.
“Everyone told the story that it was a good shoot and a lawful engagement,” Corporal Jackson said.
Plea bargains are common in cases with multiple defendants. But experts in military law say the number of deals in the Hamdaniya case and the rapid legal proceedings are somewhat unusual.
“In my view, one deal is sufficient when you have statements” admitting guilt, said Gary D. Solis, a former military judge and Marine prosecutor who teaches the law of war at Georgetown University.
“Two deals make you sleep well,” Mr. Solis said. “But three is gilding the lily. At some point, a prosecutor has to prosecute.“
Aside from the testimony by those who reached plea bargains and a summary of the individual charges, prosecutors have divulged little information about their case.
The government’s case is considered strong because statements describing the killing were signed by members of the squad, part of the Second Platoon of Kilo Company in the Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, which is based here.
In addition to Corporal Jackson, deals were reached with the Navy hospital corpsman, Petty Officer Third Class Melson J. Bacos, 21, who was sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to modified charges of conspiracy and kidnapping, and Pfc. John J. Jodka III, 20, the youngest and least experienced of the marines, who faces sentencing on Nov. 15.
The terms of the agreement with Private Jodka will be made public at the hearing next week when the defense intends to call additional witnesses, his civilian lawyer, Jane Siegel, said.
Under military law, the defendants who have accepted pretrial agreements retain the right to go to trial until their sentencing hearings, said Eugene R. Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.
“You can still try to beat the deal,“ Mr. Fidell said. “A defendant can, and not infrequently does, do better at trial than the outcome for which he bargained at pretrial.“
Others who have been ordered to trial are Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington and Cpl. Trent D. Thomas. The squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, has not been ordered to trial.
The testimony of fellow troops in such cases can make the defense difficult. It leaves little alternative but to argue that a killing was somehow mitigated by extenuating circumstances. Because the witnesses know one another well, there is the risk of information coming out that undermines a witness’s credibility, legal experts say.
Some defense lawyers have suggested another reason for the multiple plea agreements. “I think it is a matter of expediting the process and saving the command a lot of money,“ Ms. Siegel said.

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