[JURIST] US Marine Capt. Randy Stone did not commit a criminal dereliction of duty in his failure to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive], Col. John Ewers said during testimony at Stone's Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] Monday. While Ewers implied that Stone made a mistake by not investigating, he testified that "without being asked by his commander to do an investigation, I didn't think it rose to the level of criminal dereliction." Also on Monday, a Marine officer testified that Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani ignored advice to investigate [NYT report] whether the killings amounted to murder. Chessani allegedly declared that his men were not murderers, and refused to investigate further.
Last week, 1st Sergeant Albert Espinosa testified that Stone and others ignored his multiple requests [JURIST report] for an investigation into the incident. Stone stands accused [JURIST report] of dereliction of duty and violating a lawful order to investigate the incident; three other officers are charged with similar offenses. The Haditha investigation has culminated in 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 13 charges of unpremeditated murder, has maintained that his unit followed the rules of engagement [JURIST report] and did not purposefully attack civilians. The NC Times has more.