Troops charged with murdering Iraqi civilian

WASHINGTON – The military on Wednesday charged seven Marines and a Navy corpsman with premeditated murder and other crimes in the April 26 killing of an Iraqi civilian in a village west of Baghdad, the U.S. Marine Corps said.

All eight men face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. They were charged with premeditated murder, larceny, conspiracy, housebreaking, making false official statements, assault, kidnapping and obstruction of justice.

“The Marine Corps takes allegations of wrongdoing by Marines very seriously and is committed to thoroughly investigating such allegations. The Marine Corps also prides itself on holding its members accountable for their actions,” Col. Stewart Navarre told reporters at Camp Pendleton, California.

Defense lawyers have asserted that investigators extracted incriminating statements by using inappropriate interrogation methods.

The incident took place in the town of Hamdania in central Iraq, and is a separate case from the November 19 killing of 24 civilians in Haditha in which other Marines are suspected.

Military criminal investigators examined whether the servicemen fatally shot a 52-year-old disabled Iraqi man, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, in the face, then planted an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel next to his body to make it appear he was an insurgent placing a roadside bomb.

Those charged were: Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins, Cpl. Trent Thomas, Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson, Pfc. John Jodka, Lance Cpl. Jerry Shumate, Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington, Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, and Hospitalman Third Class Melson Bacos.

The eight men have been held in pretrial confinement at the Camp Pendleton brig since May 24.


In a development in a separate case, the military said a fourth Army soldier, Spc. Juston Graber, had been charged with premeditated murder in connection with the shooting deaths of three detainees in Iraq on May 9. The military said on Monday three other soldiers were charged in the same killings and with threatening to kill a fellow soldier if he told authorities the truth about the case.

All four soldiers also face a possible death penalty.

It marks the latest case of misconduct by U.S. troops in Iraq, although military leaders maintain the vast majority of American troops have conducted themselves honorably.

Joseph Casas, a defense lawyer representing Jodka, said his client was innocent and that military investigators used inappropriate methods to obtain statements from the troops in the case.

Casas said the statements were not “confessions” and that he would seek to have the statements suppressed at the trial.