A military court of four officers and four enlisted men is weighing the fate of a Marine drill instructor charged with spraying lighter fluid on a recruit and then setting fire to it.
The general court martial of Sgt. John B. Norris, 22, a drill instructor at the Marine training base in San Diego, is the 12th case there involving recruit abuse since the Corps implemented widespread training revisions in July, 1976.
The trial opened Friday and continued yesterday.
Many of the training changes stemmed from the death of Pvt. Lynn McClure, the 20-year-old recruit who was fatally beaten with pugil sticks at the San Diego base on Dec. 6, 1975. The Marine drill instructor who supervised the bouts that killed McClure was acquitted on June 28, 1976 after his general court martial on a charge on involuntary manslaughter.
A Marine spokesman at the San Diego base said yesterday that of the 11 courts martial against drill instructors charged with violating rules for dealing with recruits since the McClure verdict, four DIs have been acquitted. The most severe penalty imposed on the seven found quilty was 12 months' hard labor and a dishonorable discharge.
Norris, if found guilty on the charges stemming from the burning incident, could receive up to five years in jail on the charges of hazing, maltreatment and assault. The military court is expected to reach its decision soon.
Pvt. Victor N. Aldaz, 21, of East Chicago, had the upper left leg of his trousers set on fire by Norris last July, according to a Marine spokesman. Aldaz patted the fire out before it injured him, the Marine spokesman said.
The Marine spokesman at the San Diego base said the command is clamping down hard on any reported abuse of recruits. This is why there have been a dozen court martials since the McClure episode, he added.
Marine Commandant Louis H. Wilson ordered the crackdown on maltreatment after studying the McClure case. He said the danger of recruit abuse must be impressed into "the corporate memory of the Marine Corps."