SAN DIEGO Jury selection will resume Friday for the trial of the final defendant in the biggest criminal case against U.S. troops to emerge from the Iraq war.
Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel said Thursday that the military court at Camp Pendleton had not finished its interviews of Marines with combat experience to serve on the jury for the trial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich. He says opening arguments now could begin as late as Monday.
Wuterich is the last defendant in the biggest and lengthiest criminal case against U.S. troops to arise from the Iraq War. He led the Marine squad in 2005 that killed 24 Iraqis, including unarmed women and children, in the town of Haditha after a roadside bomb exploded near a Marine convoy, killing one Marine.
The Camp Pendleton Marine has said he regretted the loss of civilian lives but believed he was operating within military combat rules when he ordered his men to clear several homes in the town after a roadside bomb exploded in November 2005, killing one Marine and wounding two others. Marines in the unit have said they were under gunfire at the time. They tossed grenades in the homes and peppered them with gunfire.
The killings in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, are considered among the war's defining moments, further tainting America's reputation when it was already at a low point after the release of photos of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison.
Wuterich is one of eight Marines initially charged. None has been convicted.
His lawyer, Neal Puckett, said Wuterich, 31, is confident the all-military jury will acquit him.
Wuterich declined to be interviewed before the trial, and military prosecutors declined to comment.