Hearing today for officer charged with dereliction

Published May 8, 2007

SAN DIEGO - The biggest U.S. criminal case involving civilian deaths in the Iraq war is heading to court with a hearing set today for a Marine officer charged with failing to properly investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.

Capt. Randy W. Stone, 34, is one of four officers accused of failing to report and investigate the killings. All four are charged with dereliction of duty.

Three enlisted Camp Pendleton Marines are charged with unpremeditated murder in the case. They deny any wrongdoing, saying they responded properly to a perceived threat during a highly chaotic time.

Today's hearing for Stone, a military attorney from Dunkirk, Md., and other hearings planned for his co-defendants will investigate whether the officers failed in their duties by not launching an investigation sooner.

The Iraqis were killed after a roadside bomb struck a Marine patrol on the morning of Nov. 19, 2005. The blast killed one Marine and injured two others.

Not until months later did an investigation lead to charges.

Stone's lawyer, Charles Gittins, said his client did nothing wrong because he reported the facts to his superiors as he understood them.