Soldiers Charged With Murdering Iraqi Civilian, Could Face Death Penalty

Soldiers also accused of kidnapping, conspiracy, larceny, providing false official statements.

Seven Marines and a Navy medic were charged with premeditated murder and other counts Wednesday (June 21) in the April death of an Iraqi man. They could face the death penalty.

The soldiers are also being accused of kidnapping, conspiracy, larceny and providing false official statements in the April 26 shooting of 54-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad, according to a statement released by Camp Pendleton, the Southern California base where the accused have been living in confinement since last month.

The Marines and medic — Marine Sergeant Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Marine Corporal Trent D. Thomas, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, Marine Lance Corporal Tyler A. Jackson, Marine Private 1st Class John J. Jodka, Marine Lance Corporal Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Marine Lance Corporal Robert B. Pennington and Marine Corporal Marshall L. Magincalda — allegedly pulled the unarmed Awad, a disabled veteran of Iraq’s war with Iran in the 1980s, from his home and shot him to death without provocation.

Awad’s family told CNN the Marines were pressuring him to act as an informer in conjunction with roadside bombs and attacks around Hamdaniya, on Baghdad’s western outskirts.

The soldiers offered $10,000 in compensation for Awad’s death, his brother, Sadoon Awad, told CNN, but he refused and went to Iraqi authorities.

Each of the accused has retained civilian counsel and hearings will begin immediately.

Camp Pendleton’s announcement came the same day that charges of murder and giving a false official statement were filed against a fourth Army soldier — Specialist Juston R. Graber, 20, of the 101st Airborne Division — in the May 9 shooting deaths of three Iraqi civilians who had been detained by troops. Three other soldiers from that division were charged Monday in that incident.

Both cases are separate from the alleged killing of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha last November by other Marines, as that investigation is still under way (see “Military Inquiry Contradicts Marines Account Of Haditha Deaths” ). Between the three cases, criticism for the Marine Corps has been heavy.

“As commandant I am gravely concerned about the serious allegations concerning actions of some Marines at Haditha and Hamdaniya,” General Michael Hagee, the Marine commandant, told a Pentagon news conference June 7. “I can assure you that the Marine Corps takes them seriously.”