Three Marines based at Camp Pendleton will face court-martial on murder charges in the death of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania, the Marine Corps said Monday.
Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general in the case, said he would not seek the death penalty.
The three are among seven Marines and one Navy corpsman charged with kidnapping and murdering 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad on April 26.
According to prosecutors, the Marines and sailor kidnapped Awad, bound his feet, dragged him from his home and shot him to death in a roadside hole. All seven have been held in the Camp Pendleton brig since May.
The ruling came after preliminary hearings were held in recent weeks for Pfc. John J. Jodka, 20, Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda, 23, and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate, 21. The four other Marines and Navy corpsman face preliminary hearings in coming weeks to determine whether they should be court-martialed.
In June, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported that some of the Marines were expected to be allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges in return for their testimony against the men investigators believe were the ring leaders of the plot.
Jodka, Magincalda and Shumate will also face other charges that include conspiracy, housebreaking and wrongfully seizing and holding a victim against his will.
The Marines dropped some charges against all three men, including an assault charge against Magincalda and Shumate.
Joseph Casas, an attorney for Jodka, said he was pleased that some charges had been dropped.
"(Jodka) is looking forward to getting a fair court martial and moving this forward as expeditiously as possible," Casas said. "Every day he sits in there in limbo is a day behind bars that he doesn't spend with his family."
Attorneys for Magincalda and Shumate did not immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment.
Jodka is accused of firing on Awad. Magincalda is suspected of binding Awad's feet and kidnapping him. Shumate is suspected of firing his M-16 at Awad, then lying to investigators about what had happened.
At Jodka's hearing, the defense argued vehemently to keep secret "inflammatory" statements made by the private and other Marines to investigators, saying they would prejudice any potential jurors in the event of a trial.
The so-called Article 32 hearings convened for the Marines were similar to preliminary or grand jury hearings in civilian courts. Under military code, the hearings determine whether the defendants should face courts martial.