Navy-Marine Corps Court of Appeals has ruled that the CBS television
news magazine 60 Minutes must turn over outtakes from its
interview with Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich in which he
revealed what happened at the so-called “Haditha Massacre” in Iraq
more than three years ago.
three-judge appellate panel Friday directed Marine Corps military
judge Lt. Col. Jeffrey G. Meeks to “conduct additional fact-finding”
including an “in camera review” of the outtakes to determine whether
Wuterich revealed any information the government needs to bolster its
prosecution against the Marine infantryman.
The ruling of
the military judge quashing the Government subpoena was also vacated.
was originally broadcast on March 18, 2007.
22, 2008 a military judge tossed out a government motion asking him to
order CBS to hand over the videotape. The government subsequently
appealed the ruling to the US Navy-Marine Corps Court of Appeals in
was the Marine Corps squad leader who, on November 19, 2005, commanded a
fire team of Marine infantryman that swept through four houses
adjacent to a road in Haditha, Iraq after an ambush. In the brutal
melee, one Marine and 24 Iraqis, including 15 civilians, were killed.
seven other Marines were subsequently charged with murder and cover up
on December 21, 2006. A specious news report in Time magazine
the previous March triggered a world-wide media frenzy of accusations
and condemnation and lead to their prosecution. CBS was among the news
leaders in pillorying the innocent Marines.
December Wuterich and three other enlisted men were charged with the
war crimes of murder and assault and four of their officers charged
with cover up. Subsequently, six of the eight Marines have been
completely exonerated, and one has had charges dismissed (though the
dismissal is currently being appealed). Wuterich is awaiting court-martial for
reduced charged of manslaughter.
defense attorney Neil Puckett, the retired Marine Corps military judge
representing Wuterich, said the court’s decision does not mean that
CBS must turn over the video tape to Meeks anytime soon. CBS has the
option of appealing the ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Armed
Forces and even the US Supreme Court if it agrees to hear the case.
In the same
decision the panel ruled that Wuterich does not have any legal
standing in the appeal, which means the subject of the prosecution
does not have any say in the decision, Puckett said.
has repeatedly called the government’s request for the video a
“fishing expedition,” said he expects that portion of the decision to
speak for the CBS legal team although I suspect they will appeal to
the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces also – but the defense
appellate team (at camp Pendleton, California) has already asked us
for permission to appeal the Wuterich part of the decision.”
spokesman Kevin Tedesco has confirmed to Defend Our
Marines that CBS is planning an appeal.
The court also
directs Meeks to determine if “any asserted “news-gathering” privilege
applies to limit or preclude disclosure of necessary evidentiary
audio-video material in this case.”
prosecutors led by Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan contend that the military
judge erred when he quashed a Government subpoena for videotape and
other material owned by CBS. They contended that the material
purportedly included several hours of an interview conducted by a CBS
News correspondent Scott Pelley with Wuterich. That included
potentially incriminating statements CBS elected not to air.
concluded that “the military judge abused his discretion in quashing
the Government subpoena on the basis that the requested evidence was
cumulative, without first conducting an in camera review (private
review in chambers) of the evidence.”
Nathaniel R. Helms
Defend Our Marines
25 June 2008
Note: Nat Helms is a Contributing Editor to Defend Our
Marines. He is a Vietnam veteran, former police officer, war
correspondent, and, most recently, author of
My Men Are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story (Meredith Books, 2007).