Personal request from Mark Zaid
Dear Friends, Colleagues and Servicemembers:
Many of you may know that since June 2006, I have served as co-civilian counsel, along with Neal Puckett who is lead counsel (and Of Counsel to my law office), for SSgt Frank Wuterich, USMC. Frank is now facing multiple counts of murder for the events arising from the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005. He was the squad commander for the 3/1 that tragic day.
This is a highly unusual case for me. Other than the dozen or so military courts-martials I handled back in 1999-2000 dealing with anthrax vaccine refusers, I am not a criminal defense attorney much less a military criminal defense attorney (though I often represent military servicemembers in the civil context in administrative or litigation proceedings against their federal agencies).
Neal brought me in on this case due to the high-profile and sensitive nature of the allegations. This is not a typical military case. It has become highly politicized and, in our opinion, these young Marines are being sacrificed for foreign policy reasons. Indeed, one of the first things Neal and I did after I reviewed the facts of the case known at that time was to initiate, on August 2, 2006, a defamation lawsuit (which has no partisan agenda whatsoever) against Congressman John Murtha for incredibly inappropriate public statements he made that have already been proven by the government's alleged charges to be false. These statements created a further climate that contributed to the public pressures to file charges against our client.
I should point out that the Haditha case has nothing to do with the Hamdania case, which is constantly confused as one and the same. No one has pled guilty, much less confessed, to any crime with respect to Haditha. No one has been confined or shackled. The confusion between the two cases, and other clear examples of criminal conduct in Iraq, has also contributed to the negative - inaccurate - public image of our client and his fellow Marines.
I have reviewed thousands of pages of evidence that few have seen. The deaths of these Iraqi civilians was a terrible tragedy, but it was not a massacre as some in the media have portrayed. And I personally do not believe, based on what I know, that SSgt Wuterich committed a crime that day. War is a terrible thing. Innocent lives are lost. This was not the first time, nor will it be the last. Whenever women, children and the elderly are killed it is natural to want to blame someone. After all, how can it be possible that children are killed and no one is punished? But if the rules of engagement and the laws of war, especially under the circumstances such as existed in Haditha that day, are to mean anything, then SSgt Wuterich is innocent of all charges.
We are set to prove this and defend the law. The Article 32 hearing, which is the initial step within the military system, is scheduled to begin June 4, 2007. There will be a great deal of press, no doubt good and bad, that will appear in the coming months. This case is important enough to me that I am devoting a significant amount of my time to it. There is, in fact, far more at stake than just the eight Marines who have been charged with crimes arising from actions taken that day. What it means to be a U.S. Marine is being challenged. Indeed, the system, and some may even say the War, is on trial.
I wanted to make you aware of a website that has been set up to educate the public about Frank. It provides relevant information about the incident, routinely posts updates on the case and, more importantly, personalizes this young man. I encourage you to take some time and review it.
Moreover, your wide dissemination of this website would be appreciated. Frank needs as many voices in his corner as possible so that justice will be done.