Tags: haditha | witness

Key Witness in Haditha Case to Testify

Friday, 15 Feb 2008 04:46 PM

By Phil Brennan

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A military judge has ruled that a key witness in the Haditha Marines case, Maj. Jeffrey Dinsmore, will be allowed to testify in the upcoming court-martial of Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich.

In our story Wednesday headlined “Prosecutor Seeks to Bar Key Haditha Witness,” Newsmax reported that Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan, a government prosecutor and Chicago lawyer, had filed a motion to prevent Maj. Dinsmore from providing exculpatory evidence in the Marine’s court-martial scheduled to begin March 3.

Dinsmore is a decorated Marine officer and the former intelligence officer of Wuterich’s battalion.

Newsmax has learned that the military judge in the case, judge Lt. Col. Jeffrey Meeks, has denied Sullivan’s motion. Moreover, Sullivan is no longer the prosecutor in the Wuterich case, having been replaced by a Maj. Daren Erickson.

Sullivan will prosecute another Haditha Marine, Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, whose court-martial is due to commence on March 28.

Wuterich, 27, is being tried for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the killings of 24 Iraqi citizens in the town of Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, shortly after a roadside bomb hit a Marine convoy, killing the driver of a Humvee and wounding two other Marines.

Tatum is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault.

Dinsmore will testify that Wuterich and his fellow Kilo Company Marines had been forewarned of a possible insurgent ambush in Haditha and alerted as to what to look for in intelligence briefings prior to the incident.

Sullivan has claimed that there is no proof Wuterich was ever forewarned.

Dinsmore’s testimony about the attack warning could be crucial to the defense because Wuterich contends he was acting under proper rules of engagement when he ordered his men to assault several houses, which they cleared with grenades and gunfire.

By removing Sullivan from the Wuterich case, “the prosecution has claimed to have created a ‘Chinese wall’ between the Wuterich and Tatum proceedings,” Mark Zaid, one of Wuterich’s civilian attorneys, told Newsmax.

This is an attempt to have Tatum testify in Wuterich's case under a grant of immunity, according to Zaid. None of that testimony can then be used against Tatum in his proceedings.

“For reasons we do not know, Lieutenant Colonel Sullivan has taken the lead on the Tatum case and Major Erickson is the primary trial counsel in the Wuterich case,” Zaid told Newsmax.

While refusing to speculate on the reasons why Sullivan is no longer his client’s prosecutor, Zaid said: “To be sure, Lieutenant Colonel Sullivan's actions and participation in the Haditha cases was surrounded by concerns regarding unethical behavior.

“It is certainly interesting that the primary prosecution of the Haditha events has been left to a major when several more experienced lieutenant colonels have been involved and could have taken the case through to the end. It definitely raises some eyebrows and interesting water-cooler discussions.”

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