August 30, 2006

Lawyers cite concerns in Iraq murder case

By Adam Tanner

CAMP PENDLETON, California (Reuters) - Lawyers for two U.S.
Marines accused of murdering an Iraqi civilian expressed
concern on Wednesday over their clients' ability to get a fair
trial and one criticized a pretrial hearing as a
"rubber-stamping process."

In two separate hearings at Camp Pendleton north of San
Diego, California, military prosecutors sought to establish
that they had enough evidence to warrant a trial against Cpl.
Marshall Magincalda and Pfc. John Jodka.

Jodka and Magincalda are among seven Marines and a Navy
medic charged in June with premeditated murder and other crimes
in the April killing, charges which could carry a death

The accused troops allegedly shot 52-year-old disabled
Hashim Ibrahim Awad after dragging him from his home, then
planted an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel next to his body to
make it appear he was an insurgent placing a roadside bomb.

The case from the central Iraqi town of Hamdania in central
Iraq is one of a series where U.S. military personnel face
allegations of murder or abuse of Iraqi civilian. Other Camp
Pendleton-based Marines are also under investigation in a
separate incident involving the November 19, 2005 killing of 24
civilians in Haditha.

Jodka attorney Joseph Casas criticized the hearing before
it started. "Chances are this will be a rubber-stamping
process," he said.

Another of his attorneys, Jane Siegel, complained that his
right to a fair trial would be jeopardized by the disclosure of
details given in written and videotaped statements by

"When the cat is out of the bag and the bell is rung there
is no way to get evidence out of a juror's head," Siegel said.
"To openly discuss the contents of the statement will
completely pollute a local and national pool."

At his pretrial hearing, Magincalda, an infantryman who has
a Purple Heart, gave only short responses to the presiding
officer as to whether he understood the proceedings. He looked
about the military courtroom nervously.

Magincalda's attorneys had sought to hold the hearing
behind closed doors. Prosecutors at the session submitted 40
items including statements from three of the charged Marines
into evidence, which were not made public.

In the Jodka's case, the court was due later on Wednesday
to hear testimony from criminal investigators.

The defendants in the Hamdania case have been charged with
premeditated murder, larceny, conspiracy, housebreaking,
assault, kidnapping and obstruction of justice, while five also
were charged with making false official statements.

All eight men could face the death penalty if found guilty.

(Additional reporting Marty Graham)