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Plea deal possible in Haditha killings court-martial

Frank Wuterich
The court-martial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich in the killing of 24 Iraqis in 2005 is set to resume Thursday afternoon at Camp Pendleton amid indications prosecutors and defense lawyers may negotiate a plea bargain.

The military judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, abruptly recessed the trial Wednesday afternoon, telling the lawyers to discuss "other options." He added he would be available for consultation.

The trial was set to resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. But late Wednesday, that was delayed until 1 p.m.

Wuterich, 31, is charged with manslaughter, assault and dereliction of duty. After a roadside bomb killed one Marine and injured two, Wuterich and Marines in his squad killed 24 unarmed Iraqis, including three women and seven children in the Euphrates River community of Haditha.

Two prosecution witnesses -- a former platoon commander and former sergeant-major -- gave testimony that appeared favorable to Wuterich. The former platoon commander testified that Wuterich and his Marines followed their orders and training when told to "clear'' houses that the Marines suspected as the hiding spot for a gunman firing on them.

Eight Marines -- four officers and four enlisted -- were charged in the killings. Six have had their cases dismissed and one was acquitted.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, left, arrives at Camp Pendleton on Jan. 5 with lead defense attorney Neal Puckett. Credit: Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press

 
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