[JURIST] A US Marine Corps commanding officer ordered Tuesday that charges be dismissed [press release] against Marine Capt. Lucas McConnell for failing to report the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. McConnell was granted immunity from prosecution by Lt. Gen. James Mattis [official profile], commanding officer at Camp Pendleton [camp website], California, in exchange for his cooperation in prosecutions against other accused service members. McConnell originally faced dereliction of duty charges [JURIST report], although his lawyer had argued that he should not be charged because he was not present when the civilians were killed. Reuters has more.
The Haditha investigation has culminated in the largest US military prosecution involving civilian deaths during the war in Iraq. In August, preliminary Article 32 hearings began for US Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [advocacy website], who commanded the platoon implicated in the killing and suspected cover-up. He faces several counts of unpremeditated murder, as well as charges of soliciting another to commit an offense and making a false official statement. Also in August, a hearing officer recommended [JURIST report] that murder charges be dropped against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum [advocacy profile] for his role in the Haditha incident. The hearing officer argued there was insufficient evidence to support bringing Tatum to court-martial on charges of unpremeditated murder, negligent homicide and assault [USMC charge list]. An official report on the Haditha incident by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell found "serious misconduct" [JURIST report] on all levels of the US Marine Corps chain of command.