What an incredible and celebratory day! Lt. Col Paul Ware, the hearing officer for Justin's article 32 hearing said today that the evidence presented does not support the charges!!!!! Here's the news from the NC Times...
The officer in charge of a military hearing expressed serious doubts Friday about the government's prosecution of Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, one of three Marines charged in the November 2005 shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha. Lt. Col. Paul Ware, who will recommend whether to send Sharratt to trial, challenged the prosecution, saying the government's theory of the case does not warrant the three counts of unpremeditated murder filed against Sharratt in December.
"The account you want me to believe does not support unpremeditated murder," Ware told the lead prosecutor, Maj. Daren Erickson. "Your theories don't match the reason you say we should go to trial."
Ware's comments came as the government and defense presented him with summations of the case on the fifth and final day of a hearing that will determine if the 22-year-old rifleman from Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment will be ordered to stand trial.
Ware also suggested he is inclined to believe Sharratt, who maintains the first two men he shot were pointing AK-47 rifles at him, and that the killings were carried out in self-defense."To me it seems the most important issue is whether the Marines perceived a hostile threat," Ware said. "It comes down to credibility to determine if this case should go to trial."
Ware seemed disinclined to order a trial, however, questioning whether any Iraqis would be willing to come to the U.S. to testify at trial if one is ordered. Even so, Ware said forensic evidence presented by agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who found multiple bullet holes in the walls and curtains of the room does not suggest execution-style killings."What the evidence points to is that the version of the Iraqis isn't really supported," Ware said.
Ware said he will issue his recommendation about whether to send Sharratt to trial to Lt. Gen. James Mattis by July 1. Mattis is in charge of the case as head of Marine forces in the Middle East. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the general can accept or reject the hearing officer's recommendation.
Thank goodness Lt. Col Ware looked at this case on the merits and not through politically biased lenses as the media, Murtha and others did. I realize that the recommendation hasn't been made but damn those statements sure look like Justin's on the way to exoneration.
Not to toot my horn but I never had any doubts about this - from the start I was skeptical and appalled at this travesty. We have 4 more hearings and 2 pending recommendations to go but THIS is a reason to celebrate!!
Next step - start demanding a public apology to all those who rushed to judgment in this case. You know who you are and you will be held accountable for your statements.
In the meantime, LCpl Sharratt's father, Darryll, has an article posted over at FreeRepublic. Stop by and give him a virtual pat on the back. God Bless Darryll and Theresa Sharratt. Their lives have been torn apart and financial resources drained because a terrorist sympathizer posing as a Time Reporter and an ex-Marine wearing a CodePink corsage saw this as a political tool. Not to mention the Hell that the Marine Heroes, including Justin, have lived with after serving their country honorably.
But tonight - WE CELEBRATE!!!