Murder charge dropped against US Marine who admitted killing Iraqi detainee

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A charge of murder brought against a US Marine who shot an unarmed Iraqi detainee has been dropped, despite the fact he admitted knowing the killing was wrong. Jermaine Nelson reached a plea deal that avoids jail time.

Nelson pleaded guilty to one count of dereliction of duty after shooting the man in Fallujah on the orders of his superior. He has arranged a deal whereby he will not serve jail time and will receive an honourable discharge. The maximum possible sentence would have been one year's jail and a dishonourable discharge, compared to life imprisonment for murder.

Nelson had entered a house in 2004 when his squad captured four men. Sgt. Jose Luis Nazario then ordered the men killed. "I knew it was wrong, I knew it was unlawful," said Nelson. The case came to light after one of the group told a US Secret Service member of an illegal killing he had been involved in. Ryan Weemer was cleared at his court martial despite his confession to the agent, his defense claiming one prisoner had made a grab at his weapon.

Jose Nazario also stood trial for manslaughter in a civilian court. Prosecutors alleged he shot two detainees and then ordered the other two to be killed. However, he was found not guilty when the other two refused to testify against him; they were found to be in contempt of court.