Hearing officer:Evidence Does Not Support Murder Charge in Haditha Marine Case

The officer in charge of a military hearing expressed serious doubts Friday about the government's prosecution of Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, one of three Marines charged in the November 2005 shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha. Lt. Col. Paul Ware, who will recommend whether to send Sharratt to trial, challenged the prosecution, saying the government's theory of the case does not warrant the three counts of unpremeditated murder filed against Sharratt in December.
"The account you want me to believe does not support unpremeditated murder," Ware told the lead prosecutor, Maj. Daren Erickson. "Your theories don't match the reason you say we should go to trial."
Ware's comments came as the government and defense presented him with summations of the case on the fifth and final day of a hearing that will determine if the 22-year-old rifleman from Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment will be ordered to stand trial.

Sharratt is accused of the civilian equivalent of second-degree murder for shooting three Iraqi brothers inside a home. A fourth man was shot by Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who also faces murder charges.

Ware also suggested he is inclined to believe Sharratt, who maintains the first two men he shot were pointing AK-47 rifles at him, and that the killings were carried out in self-defense.
"To me it seems the most important issue is whether the Marines perceived a hostile threat," Ware said. "It comes down to credibility to determine if this case should go to trial."
Prosecutors filed charges against Sharratt based on interviews with relatives of the slain men, who contended they did not have any weapons and were herded into the room and shot in rapid succession. In a statement he read to Ware on Thursday, Sharratt said that story is false and that the killings stemmed from his belief his life was in danger.
"I would not change any of the decisions I made that
LCpl. Justin Sharratt-Haditha Marine

Prosecutors agreed Friday that the case centers solely on the competing version of events.

Talk Show America 6/18/2007

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