[JURIST] A US military investigator considering the case against Marine lawyer Capt. Randy W. Stone has recommended that he not face court-martial for his failure to launch a probe into the November 2005 killings of 24 Iraqi civilians by a squad of US Marines at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive], according to Stone's defense attorney speaking Saturday. US Marine Maj. Thomas McCann recommended the matter be handled administratively. Stone testified in his Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] that he did not launch an investigation [JURIST report] into the killings because he believed that they occurred within the bounds of lawful combat. He also said that he never lied about his response to the incident, but rather always worked "to shed light on what I knew and when I knew it." Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general overseeing Stone's case, will decide whether Stone will face court-martial; the investigator's recommendation is not binding.
The Haditha investigation is the largest US military prosecution involving civilian deaths during the war in Iraq. Iraqi witnesses claim that Marines led by Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich [advocacy website] shot into the homes of civilians after a fellow Marine was killed by a roadside bomb. Wuterich, who faces thirteen charges of unpremeditated murder [JURIST report], has maintained that his unit followed the rules of engagement [JURIST report] and did not purposefully attack civilians. AP has more.