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IRAQ: Marine set for court-martial on charge of killing prisoner in Fallouja

February 16, 2009 |  8:41 pm

Nelson

The court-martial of Sgt. Jermaine Nelson begins Tuesday at Camp Pendleton. Nelson is charged with murder in the death of an unarmed prisoner during the battle in Fallouja in November 2004.

Nelson confessed to a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent in 2007 that he killed a prisoner at the order of his squad leader, then-Sgt. Jose Nazario.

Last year, Nelson refused to testify to a federal grand jury investigating Nazario's role in the death of four prisoners. Not even a stint behind bars for contempt of court could make him talk.

When Nazario went to trial last summer on manslaughter charges in Riverside federal court, Nelson again refused to testify, even though he was assured none of his testimony could be used against him in his court-martial.

Nazario had left the Marine Corps when word of the alleged murders surfaced and thus could not be tried in a military court. He was acquitted by the civilian jurors, some of whom said they felt unequipped to second-guess an action taken during combat.

If he chooses a jury trial, rather than judge-only, Nelson will have both enlisted personnel and officers on the panel, most likely all combat veterans of Iraq.

Facing a separate court-martial is Sgt. Ryan Weemer. Weemer's admissions to a Secret Service employee during a job interview started the investigation that led to charges against him, Nelson and Nazario.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Sgt. Jermaine Nelson. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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