This morning, in Washington, DC, a three-judge panel of
military officers will hear oral arguments in the LtCol Chessani
case, for and against dismissal of charges.
Chessani was charged, on December 21, 2006, with dereliction of
duty and violation of a lawful order. The lieutenant colonel was
not present when the incident took place and maintains he did
June of this year, charges against Chessani were dismissed by a
military judge because the case was tainted with unlawful command
so, say Marine Corps lawyers.
Today, Marine prosecutors will have thirty minutes before the
Navy-Marine Court of Criminal Appeals (the NMCCA) to argue why
charges should be reinstated. They will argue that the supreme
authority in the case, General James Mattis, denied any command
influence took place.
Robert Muise, a former Marine Corps Staff Judge Advocate and now a
lawyer for the defense, will also have thirty minutes. He will
argue that General Mattis’ testimony is not relevant because his
denial of command influence does not meet an objective standard.
Muise is currently a member of the Thomas More Law Center,
representing LtCol Chessani pro bono.
Friday's hearing is another step in an agonizingly slow process.
The NMCCA’s decision may take six months and, whatever the
decision, it will almost certainly be appealed.
Chessani case will then go to the Court of Appeals for the Armed
Forces and quite possibly the United States Supreme Court.
his case goes to trial at all, LtCol Chessani may not see the
inside of a courtroom for another two years.
Meanwhile, the lieutenant colonel is occupied with administrative
duties—and enjoying his family despite the uncertain future. His
wife gave birth recently and Chessani is now the proud father of
six, all under the age of ten.
convicted, the lieutenant colonel faces two and a half years
imprisonment, dismissal from the Marine Corps, and loss of
government’s decision to pursue the Chessani case in this manner
was a surprise to some Haditha trial observers. Charges against
the lieutenant colonel were dismissed without prejudice—leaving
the door open for charges to be refiled. If the government had
taken that route, Chessani’s case might already have been
adjudicated instead of turning into something of a legal quagmire.
other remaining Haditha defendant, SSgt Frank Wuterich, is
similarly stuck in legal limbo. The government is currently suing
CBS over access to outtakes of its interview with Wuterich. CBS
has refused and will fight the Marine Corps all the way to the
Supreme Court. The staff sergeant’s case will probably not go to
trial for at least a year.
Defend Our Marines
17 October 2008