"They know they did nothing wrong that day"....Darryl Sharratt
A recent article in The South Bend Tribune pointed out what we have forgotten about lately, the defense of the Haditah Marines against those bogus charges:
"I am so sorry. None of you deserve this."
These and thousands of other words flood a Web site set up three months ago in support of Justin Sharratt -- a former Granger resident charged last December with murder in connection with the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in November 2005.
Since then, father Darryl Sharratt hasn't stopped defending the 22-year-old Marine lance corporal. He faces three counts of unpremeditated murder stemming from the controversial 2005 Haditha, Iraq, incident and remains at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Three other Marines also were charged with murder, while four Marine officers were charged with dereliction of duty for not accurately reporting the events.
But, from chats with the Washington Observer-Reporter and NewsMax to efforts to join popular radio talk show host Michael Savage on the air, Darryl Sharratt is determined to see his son exonerated.The Sharratt family has collected at least $500 through a defense fund established for Justin Sharratt, but his father two weeks ago felt the campaign had been relatively unsuccessful.
"Our Haditha Marines are left to defend for themselves,"Darryl Sharratt said, emphasizing that all of the Marines involved in the alleged 2005 murders are innocent.
When his son returned from Haditha in early 2006, Darryl Sharratt hired Gary Myers, a civilian attorney with extensive military experience ranging from the My Lai prosecutions of the 1970s to the more recent Abu Ghraib prison abuse trials. Myers did not return repeated calls from The Tribune.
Justin Sharratt has been discouraged from speaking with the media by his attorney, mother Theresa Sharratt said. The Marine now awaits an Article 32 hearing scheduled for April 17 at Camp Pendleton, the first of the Marines' hearings, sister Jaclyn Sharratt, 25, said.The hearing is similar to a probable cause hearing in civilian court. If the case does proceed to a court martial, that hearing could take place in September, Jaclyn Sharratt said.
"He's innocent, and when we talk to him, you can feel this," Darryl Sharratt said of his son. "He's strong, upbeat, not worried again because they know they did nothing wrong that day."
Jaclyn Sharratt and her boyfriend, Matt Smith, who live in Chicago, set up the Web site for her brother during his visit to the East Coast around New Year's. Their parents moved to Pennsylvania in 2004 after living in Granger for almost eight years, she said.
"My dad now has gray hair, my mom's eyes look sad all the time, Justin has lost weight and I sometimes don't even recognize myself in the mirror," Jaclyn Sharratt wrote in a February blog.
Not much has changed since then, she told The Tribune this week, recalling how her father has relinquished much of his recreational golfing to focus on researching and developing contacts."Normally, this is the guy who'd be putting in the backyard," she said.
Darryl Sharratt argues that his son, along with the other Marines, "did not fire under revenge" that day in Haditha after a roadside improvised explosive device went off, killing Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, of El Paso, Texas.
The Marines concurred they were soon under fire from all sides in a complex insurgent attack that lasted much of the day, and they were simply following the proper rules of engagement as they were trained to do, Justin Sharratt has told his parents.
"This is not a massacre," Darryl Sharratt said.
Darryl Sharratt also argues that Time magazine misreported the Haditha events in its coverage based on the accounts of survivors and a videotape.Justin Sharratt, who still can have visitors and leave the camp on days off, last traveled home to Pennsylvania in early February. Since then his mother has spoken with him via telephone each day, his father, almost every day, he said.
Now, the nondeployable Marine is working at Camp Pendleton in facilities maintenance, where he seems to be happy doing lawn care, his father said. He previously worked as a paper shuffler and a gym manager, he said.
Justin Sharratt's contract originally ended July 28, after which he had planned to re-enlist for another four years and probably would have been deployed to Iraq once more, Jaclyn Sharratt said.
If the Article 32 hearing this month goes in his favor, he will likely move back to Pennsylvania and pursue an associate degree, she said.
LCpl. Sharratt's hearing on April 17th will be the first Article 32 for a Haditha Marine. He is charged with killing three military age males who were shooting at him.
I believe this is the first time in the history of the U.S. military that a serviceman is charged with murder for killing combatants.
To make a donation or leave a comment for the Sharratt family, please visit:
If you would like to help with the civilian lawyer's legal fees for the
Haditha Marines you can do so by going to these sites.
Defend Our Marines
Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt
SSgt. Frank Wuterich
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani
Marine Defense Fund