If the proposal is accepted by Lieutenant-General James Mattis, the commanding officer overseeing the case, no one will face murder charges in the Haditha case.

 

'Best decision'

 

"This is a major blow to the prosecution. Negligent homicide is at the lowest end of the spectrum"

Tom Umberg, 
former military prosecutor
Ware's non-binding recommendation comes after a preliminary hearing where evidence against Wuterich was reviewed.

 

Wuterich, 27, has expressed regret over the deaths but maintained that he operated within combat rules and "made the best decisions I could have at the time".

 

At the preliminary hearing, the squad leader said "engaging was the only choice".

 

Puckett, his lawyer, said they were "very pleased and also not surprised given how the other cases have gone".

 

"There has never been any inkling that any of these marines lost control or went on a rampage," he added.

 

Reduced charges

 

Negligent homicide carries a maximum sentence of three years while for murder it life imprisonment.

 

Puckett said Ware also recommended dropping charges against Wuterich of making a false official statement and telling a squad member to do the same.

 

The Haditha slayings occurred on November 19, 2005, after a roadside bomb hit a marine convoy, killing a soldier and wounding two others.

 

Although prosecutors have not won any convictions, three senior officers have been censured - an administrative punishment that could affect their career advancement and retirement benefits – for failing to investigate the killings.

 

Commenting on the recommendation, Tom Umberg, a retired army colonel and former military prosecutor, said Ware could have proposed manslaughter charges instead.

 

"This is a major blow to the prosecution," he said. "Negligent homicide is at the lowest end of the spectrum."