Jury Acquits Ex-Marine in Iraqis' Deaths

Associated Press
Friday, August 29, 2008

RIVERSIDE, Calif., Aug. 28 -- A former Marine accused of killing unarmed Iraqi detainees was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter Thursday in a first-of-its-kind federal trial.

The jury took six hours to find Jose Luis Nazario Jr. not guilty of charges that he killed or caused others to kill four unarmed detainees Nov. 9, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq, during some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

The verdict left the 28-year-old defendant in tears. His mother, family members and friends cried so loudly that the judge smacked his gavel in a call for order.

This marks the first time a civilian jury has determined whether the alleged actions of a former military service member in combat violated the laws of war.

The jury forewoman, Ingrid Wicken, said the panel acquitted Nazario because there was not enough evidence against him.

"I think you don't know what goes on in combat until you are in combat," she said.

Other former Marines testified during the five-day trial that they did not see Nazario kill the detainees but heard the gunshots.

Had Nazario been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, he could have faced more than 10 years in prison.

Nazario is the first civilian to be brought to trial under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which allows the prosecution of former military service members accused of committing crimes outside the United States.

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