Alleged confessions may be central to murder case against Marines

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media: The Associated Press
Date: 31 August 2006

CAMP PENDLETON, California_Alleged confessions appear to form the crux of
the government's case against seven Marines and a Navy corpsman charged with
murder, kidnapping and other crimes in an Iraqi man's slaying last April.

Defense attorneys challenge the validity of the statements and say without
them the government's case is baseless.

Details about the prosecution's case emerged Wednesday during preliminary
hearings for two of eight men accused in the shooting death of 52-year-old
Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the village of Hamdania.

At Marine Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda's hearing, prosecutors submitted a
thick packet of evidence and pointed to three documents they say show enough
probable cause for his charges to be recommended for court martial.

Prosecutor Capt. Nicholas L. Gannon claimed the evidence included a
confession by squad leader Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins and a confessional
video by Cpl. Trent D. Thomas.

What exactly they allegedly confessed to was unclear; prosecutors did not

"Those three pieces of evidence should satisfy the investigation in its
current form," Gannon said.

Magincalda's attorney Joseph Low said he would contest the statements. Other
defense lawyers have previously said they will try to suppress any alleged
confessions if the case goes to trial. They contend investigators used
heavy-handed and coercive techniques to obtain them.

The so-called Article 32 hearings convened for Magincalda, 23, and Marine
Pfc. John J. Jodka III, 20, determine whether the defendants face courts
martial trials under military code.

According to prosecutors, the Marines and sailor kidnapped Awad on April 26,
bound his feet, dragged him from his home and shot him to death in a
roadside hole. All have been held in the Camp Pendleton brig since May.

At Jodka's hearing, the defense argued vehemently to keep secret
"inflammatory" statements made by the private and other Marines, saying they
would prejudice any potential jurors in the event of a trial.

Joseph Casas, an attorney for Jodka, said the statements were the only
evidence the government had.

"Take the statements out of the picture and I submit to you the government
has nothing," Casas said.

In a surprise announcement during Jodka's hearing, prosecutors said they
would not seek the death penalty in his case.

It was unclear how their position on the death penalty in Jodka's case would
affect other defendants.

Laurie Levenson, a law school professor at Loyola University, said the
prosecution's decision not to seek capital punishment was an unusual move
possibly aimed at reducing public scrutiny of their case.

"This builds the credibility of the prosecutor," Levenson said. "They will
still need to meet their burden (of proof), but I don't think their burden
will be as high."

The military has not executed anyone since 1961, when a soldier was hanged
for rape and attempted murder, she said.

Gary D. Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge advocate who
teaches law of war at Georgetown University Law Center, called the move
"very weird" and possibly a "tactical error" by the prosecutor.

"The prosecution has nothing to do with it," Solis said of capital

The other defendants, all members of the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion,
5th Marine Regiment, are expected to have separate hearings in coming weeks.
The charges include kidnapping, murder and conspiracy.