Trying Warriors in Civilian Court

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Hopefully readers have kept up with the case of Marine Sergeant Jose Luis Nazario Jr., a veteran of al Fajr. Tony Perry with the LA Times is carrying an account of the case thus far against him (extensively cited below).

In what the prosecution calls Marine Corps 101, civilian jurors in a landmark trial in Riverside are being tutored in a “warrior culture” that trains young men not only how to kill the enemy but, just as importantly, when to show restraint.

Barring unforeseen events, jurors in the case of the United States of America vs. Jose Luis Nazario Jr. will be asked this week to do something no civilian jury has done in modern times: determine whether a member of the U.S. military committed criminal acts in combat. Only one of the jurors has military experience, a stint in the Navy a decade ago.

Nazario, 28, a former Marine sergeant and squad leader, is accused of manslaughter and assault in the killing of four Iraqi prisoners on the first day of Operation Phantom Fury, the Marine-led battle in November 2004 to rout armed insurgents from Fallouja.

He left the Marine Corps in 2005 and was no longer subject to military law when the investigation began in 2006.

Regardless of the verdict, the case has established a precedent that the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, passed in 2000 to allow Defense Department civilian employees and contractors to be prosecuted for crimes overseas, also applies to military members who leave the service before their alleged crimes are discovered.

Two fellow Marines who remain on active duty face military charges in the case. When Sgts. Ryan Weemer and Jermaine Nelson go to court-martial, their jurors will be Marines and sailors, most of whom will have had combat experience in Iraq, Afghanistan or both.

No one will have to tell those jurors what a rifle squad is, the difference between an M-16 rifle and a .50-caliber machine gun, that RPG stands for rocket-propelled grenade and IED stands for improvised explosive device, or that a “daisy chain” is a series of IEDs buried by insurgents to kill a large number of Americans …

At one point, a juror complained that she was having trouble keeping up with all the acronyms. The court reporters also have had trouble with the speed and volume of jargon …

A juror looked shocked when Schmitt said Marines are taught that some Iraqi women hide bombs under their clothing by pretending to be cradling babies. Knowing when not to shoot, he said, “is the difficult part of our profession.”

Preposterous. Not knowing how warriors are trained and what stress they endure, not knowing what IED, ROE, RUF, RPG, JDAM or any of the other acronyms stand for, not ever having been a part of a warrior culture, and not knowing what kinetic operations means or what a satellite patrol is, these civilians are expected to deliver a verdict on an incident that has no witnesses, in a place they have never been, under conditions they can only imagine? And one juror is shocked that females would carry bombs under their clothing and use their gender to mask their intent!

TCJ has a reputation for blunt honesty. Let’s be honest and call a charade a charade. If the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act is responsible for this joke, then it should be undone with haste because the act itself is a joke.

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You are currently reading "Trying Warriors in Civilian Court", entry #1273 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Marine Corps and was published August 26th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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