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PBS program to spotlight Haditha killings

The Oklahoman, February 17, 2008

PBS program to spotlight Haditha killings

By JAY MARKS, The Oklahoman

An Edmond Marine will go to trial next month on charges stemming from the death of 24 Iraqi civilians in 2005, but television viewers won't have to wait that long to learn more about the incident.

PBS' "Frontline” will explore what happened in the village of Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, after a Marine was killed in an explosion caused by a roadside bomb. The show, titled "Rules of Engagement,” airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, an Edmond native, is one of eight Marines to face charges in the biggest U.S. criminal case involving civilian deaths in the ongoing war in Iraq. Charges have been dismissed against four of them.

Tatum's attorney contends he did what he was trained to do.

Tatum, 26, originally was charged with murder and negligent homicide for his role in the killings, which occurred during a bloody door-to-door sweep after the explosion.

A Marine general reduced the charges in October, but he still faces court martial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault. His trial is set for March 28 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California.

Tatum also has been ordered to testify against his squad leader, who faces the most serious charges in the case.

Lawyers for Tatum said they received notice that their client is to appear at next month's court-martial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who faces nine counts of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and obstruction of justice.

The "Frontline” episode airing this week promises to reveal the untold story of what happened in Haditha, according to a news release.

It includes interviews with Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, one of the Marines originally charged in the case, and an intelligence officer who watched the events unfold, as well as perspective from Iraqi civilians who survived the incident.

David Allender, who runs DefendOurMarines.org, said he expects the show to offer a new perspective on the killings, which have been portrayed as a massacre by blood-thirsty Marines.

 

Contributing: The Associated Press