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In a surprise move, the defense attorneys for one of the eight Camp Pendleton-based service members accused of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the April death of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdaniya have taken up the government’s offer to begin an Article 32 hearing next week.

“We’re going on Wednesday,” said Jane Siegel, a civilian defense attorney for Pfc. John Jodka, one of the Marines charged in the case. Jodka’s Article 32 was previously scheduled to begin in September.

An Article 32 hearing, the military version of a civilian grand jury proceeding, is an adversarial proceeding in which the prosecution presents its case against the accused and – unique to military justice – the defense is allowed to present its own evidence and cross-examine witnesses. An impartial investigating officer oversees the hearing and makes a recommendation whether some or all of the charges should be dismissed or referred to a full court martial proceeding.

Earlier this week, military officials denied the requests of Jodka and four other Marines to skip the hearings and proceed straight to a full court martial. Some of those requests were based on complaints that government prosecutors had not turned over all of the relevant evidence to defense attorneys.

“We are as prepared as we can be given the shortage of info we have been given,” Siegel said. “I hope that the investigating officer will do his duty and make sure we get a full hearing and all of the evidence that has not been made available by the government.”

Joseph Casas, Jodka’s other civilian attorney, said Iraqi witnesses have been removed from the list of witnesses that the government planned to call due to a lack of time. But Casas said he still plans to call some of those Iraqis.

“I don’t know how the government is going to deal with that,” Casas said.

Casas expects the hearing to last into next weekend.

Siegel said that that another of the accused Marines, Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, is expected to face an Article 32 hearing as soon as Monday. Magincalda’s lawyer couldn’t be reached to verify the information and a spokesman for the Marines refused to comment, citing a pending press release.

All of the accused service men are members of Kilo Company of the Camp Pendleton based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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