Testimony begins in Wuterich Haditha hearing

North County Times:

A Marine lance corporal testified Thursday morning that he never saw his squad leader kill any Iraqis inside two homes that were assaulted by a group of Camp Pendleton Marines in Haditha in 2005 after a roadside bombing.

Lance Cpl. Humberto Mendoza told a packed base courtroom that the homes were stormed on the heels of a roadside bombing that killed one Marine and injured two others.


"Wait until I open the door and shoot," Mendoza quoted Wuterich as saying.

Wuterich has told investigators he was taking small-arms fire from a house near the explosion and ordered his troops to consider anyone inside as an enemy.

"I told them to shoot first, ask questions later," he told authorities last year.


A short time later, a support force including Kilo Company platoon commander 1st Lt. William Kallop, who has testified in a previous hearing that he ordered Wuterich and his men to "clear" houses near the site of the bombing.

That part of the events at Haditha came after five men who emerged from a car moments after the bombing were shot and killed, resulting in five of the now 17 murder charges against Wuterich.

Mendoza testified only that he saw Wuterich shooting at the car but did not specifically say he saw him shoot any of those men.

Wuterich's attorneys maintain a forensic reconstruction of the scene of the car killings will exonerate their client and that the Iraqis killed inside their homes died as he and his squad members were carrying out a legitimate combat action in response to being attacked.


Wuterich's hearing was recessed at noon and scheduled to resume in mid-afternoon. Shortly before it did, Maj. Haytham Faraj, one of Wuterich's attorneys, asked Mendoza his opinion of the man who led him at Haditha.

"I think he is a great Marine," Mendoza responded.

Mendoza's testimony in the earlier cases was apparently not persuasive. In the Tatum case he attempted to put Tatum as the shooter of some people he had already identified as women and children. In this case he appears to be avoiding any direct testimony tying Sgt. Wuterich to the killings. I wouldn't think this would be helpful to the prosecutions case. I will try to update this post with any reports from the afternoon testimony.

For an example of biased reporting at its worst check out this Power Line look at the AFP report on the trial.


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