Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Three Marines to be court martialed avoid death penalty

AP , SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

Three US Marines will face courts-martial on murder and kidnapping charges in the death of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania, but will not face the death penalty, the Marine Corps said.

The three were among seven Marines and one Navy corpsman charged with kidnapping and killing 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad last April.

Lance Corporal Tyler Jackson, Lance Corporal Robert Pennington and Corporal Trent Thomas of Camp Pendleton, California, will also face charges including conspiracy, housebreaking and larceny, the Marine Corps said on Wednesday.

General James Mattis, the commanding general in the case, has not announced a decision on whether the squad leader, Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins III, will go to trial and what charges he will face. Three other Marines also have been referred to courts-martial.

On Oct. 6, Petty Officer Third Class Melson Bacos, a Navy corpsman on patrol with the Marines, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy under a deal with prosecutors.

He agreed to testify at his court-martial and during upcoming proceedings about what he witnessed.

Bacos said that the squad entered Hamdania on April 26 while searching for a known insurgent who had been captured three times, then released.

The group approached a house where the insurgent was believed to be hiding, but when someone inside woke up, the Marines instead went to another home and grabbed Awad.

Bacos said the squad took Awad to a roadside hole and shot him before planting a shovel and AK-47 to make it look as if he was an insurgent planting a bomb. Bacos was sent to 12 months confinement; charges of murder were dropped.

Attorneys for the Marines said they would like to get them out of confinement.

Thomas' attorney, Vic Kelley, said he intended to file a motion to get his client out of the brig, where he has been held since May.

Under military law, the accused has no right to bail.

Pennington's attorney David Brahms said he too wanted to get his client out of confinement. Jackson's civilian attorney, Thomas Watt, could not be immediately reached for comment.

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