On Thursday, Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., who’s accused of participating in two separate incidents in Hamdaniya, Iraq, that have spurned war crimes charges, waived his right to the military version of a grand jury hearing.

Shumate is accused of assault in the alleged April 10 beating of and Iraqi man and murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the April 26 death of an Iraqi man.

Shumate’s attorney, Steve Immel, said the decision was made because his client wants to have a trial as soon as possible.

Immel said that he thinks the presence of a neutral military judge will help him secure rulings that may aid in Shumate’s defense, including access to the alleged crime scenes in Iraq, the ability to interview witnesses as well as Shumate’s release from the brig at Camp Pendleton, where he and six other Marines and a Navy medic charged in the alleged murder, have been held since returning from Iraq on May 24.

“The guarantees that are granted to him when it goes in front of a military judge are much more neutral than under an Article 32 hearing,” Immel said. “The protections in a military trial are similar to those in a civilian trial and we want to avail ourselves of those as soon as possible.”

Unlike a grand jury hearing, an Article 32 hearing is an adversarial proceeding in which the defense is allowed to present its own evidence and cross-examine witnesses. An investigative officer who oversees the hearing then makes a recommendation to a commanding officer about whether the charges should proceed to a full court martial or be dismissed.

On Wednesday, Pfc. John Jodka waived his right to an Article 32 hearing and at least two others, Marines Cpl. Trent Thomas and Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, have since followed suit.

A decision about if and when the four Marines will be court marshaled has yet to made.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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