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Tuesday, May 03, 2005 

Pantano Trial Begins

The trial of Pantano begins...
I wrote in February about Lt Pantano when charges were filed...

Here's an update From the NYT:
Witness Given Immunity in Marine Hearing

Published: May 1, 2005

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., April 30 - A military prosecutor pressed the claim Saturday that the shootings of two Iraqis by a Marine officer last year were executions, and said the officer should be court-martialed for premeditated murder and related charges.

But lawyers for the officer, Second Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, insisted at a hearing that the shootings, which occurred during a search outside a suspected insurgent hideout, had been self-defense. They said the accusations arose because of a sergeant who had an ax to grind against Lieutenant Pantano, the sergeant's platoon commander. The sergeant, Daniel Coburn, was Lieutenant Pantano's primary accuser, and described the shootings as executions in a letter to his wife.

Charles Gittins, a civilian defense lawyer, spent close to six hours Saturday - the conclusion of a five-day hearing - trying to debunk Sergeant Coburn's earlier testimony.

Sergeant Coburn, testifying under a grant of immunity, acknowledged under questioning that his position about what had happened in Iraq was an opinion. He also said he had never formally notified superiors because he had not thought they would take the claim seriously.

"I do not recall my state of mind when I wrote this letter," Sergeant Coburn said under intense questioning by Mr. Gittins. "I never intended this letter to be part of a court hearing."

Prosecutors pressed for the case to go forward, but said Saturday that they would not seek the death penalty, even though the top charge, premeditated murder, allows that option.

"Marines are the most fearsome warriors on this planet," Maj. Stephen Keane, the lead prosecutor in the case, said. "The world must also know that we fight with honor."

Major Keane said: "We know the accused shot these people 50 or 60 times. We know he shot them so many times because he intended to send a message."

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