Murder charges against a US Marine accused of killing three Iraqi civilians during an alleged massacre in Haditha two years ago have been dropped, the military said on Thursday.
A statement released by the Marines at their Camp Pendleton base in southern California revealed that three charges of unpremeditated murder against Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt had been withdrawn.
The decision was announced in a written ruling from the commander Lieutenant General James Mattis and followed a recommendation from an investigator last month that the charges should be dropped.
“An independent Article 32 investigating officer has considered all the facts and determined that the evidence does not support a referral to court-martial for Lance Corporal Sharratt,” Mattis wrote.
“Based on my review of all the evidence in this case and considering the recommendation of the Article 32 officer, I have dismissed the charges.”
In a statement recommending the charges be dropped released last month, investigator Lieutenant Colonel Paul Ware said the prosecution charges were “unsupported by the independent evidence.”
“To believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary,” Ware added.
The Haditha killings are the most serious allegations of war crimes against US soldiers in Iraq.
Eight Marines were initially charged in connection with the case — four with murder and four officers with failing to properly investigate the incident.
Sharratt is the second Marine to have murder charges dropped after allegations against Sergeant Sanick DeLa Cruz were withdrawn in April.
Here’s another factoid, via AP:
In his recommendation, Lt. Col. Paul Ware said murder charges brought against Sharratt were based on unreliable witness accounts, poor forensic evidence and questionable legal theories.
Jeff Goldstein, chaneling the moonbat left, quips:
Personally, I think they should have gassed him.
Because you have to admit, even if it didn’t happen the way the government charged it had, it certainly could have.
And sometimes you have to sacrifice the factual on the altar of the plausible if you’re hoping to draw any real and lasting significance from it.
No comment yet from the Murtha camp and all the other far left blowhards and mediots (but I repeat myself) who were so quick to condemn our men in uniform before even before an investigation could take place. Looks like all those stories coming out questioning the validity and credibility of both the story and the storytellers (aka “sources”) had some merit to them after all.
Update I: Make sure to check out Pundit Review’s interview with Justin Sharratt’s father Daryl. Here’s a preview:
We have had the pleasure of speaking with Justin’s father Darryl on Pundit Review Radio twice in recent weeks. In the first interview, we provided a detailed overview of the case and the toll it has taken on the family. In the second interview, we discussed Darryl’s uncomfortable and unsatisfying phone conversation with Congressman Murtha, who convicted Justin and the other Haditha Marines repeatedly in the media. Making this nightmare even worse, Murtha is the Sharratt’s congressmen. It took Darryl Sharratt 53 phone calls over 18 months to get Murtha on the line.
You can listen to the two interviews PR’s had with Mr. Sharratt here.
Update II: Charges against a third Marine have been dropped, as well:
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A U.S. Marine general dropped all charges on Thursday against two Marines in the shooting deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, scene of what Iraqi witnesses said was a massacre by American troops.
The dismissal of charges means neither Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt nor Capt. Randy Stone will face a court-martial in connection with the events at Haditha, which have brought international condemnation of U.S. troops.
Sharratt, 22, had been charged with three counts of premeditated murder and Stone, 35, with dereliction of duty for failing to properly report the civilian deaths.
Defense attorneys conceded civilians were killed at Haditha but said they died during chaotic fighting with insurgents after the roadside blast.
In dismissing the charges against Sharratt and Stone after what he said was an exhaustive review, Lt. Gen. James Mattis cited the difficult battle conditions and a “shadowy enemy” whose forces hid among civilians.
Mattis said that while Stone may have made mistakes, they did not “rise to the level of criminal behavior.”
Hat tip: Lawhawk, who writes in response:
Murtha’s actions could have prejudiced the military criminal justice proceedings and deprived those Marines of their rights under the law, not to mention the presumption of innocence. Murtha’s rush to judgment was irresponsible, reckless, and calculated to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the Marine Corps mission in Iraq.
How long til we hear the cries of “cover-up!” coming from the usual suspects?