CBS to Appeal Ruling on Marine Interview
SAN DIEGO - CBS News said it plans to appeal a ruling by a military appellate court that ordered a judge to review unaired footage of an interview given by a Marine squad leader charged in the killings of 24 Iraqis.CBS News spokeswoman Sandra Genelius said Wednesday the news network would appeal the finding by the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Appeals, which remanded the case to a military court.
The appeals court ruling said a judge must review the footage to determine the legal basis for the television network's refusal to turn over unaired "60 Minutes" footage of its interview with Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich.
The appeals court also ordered the judge, Marine Lt. Col. Jeffrey Meeks, to decide what, if any, newsgathering privilege would prohibit the network from complying with a prosecution subpoena.
The decision by the appellate court comes after a military prosecutor appealed a judge's decision to throw out a subpoena, saying the unaired footage is vital to the case because it contains admissions by Wuterich of crimes in the attack in Haditha, Iraq, on Nov. 19, 2005.
CBS News has 30 days to file its appeal.
Wuterich "apparently admits in an unaired segment that he did in fact order his men to 'shoot first and ask questions later,'" Marine prosecutor Capt. Nicholas Gannon said in a motion filed in early February.
Meeks had ruled that prosecutors did not need the CBS footage to get the evidence they needed.
Wuterich, 27, of Meriden, Conn., faces voluntary manslaughter and other charges in the Haditha deaths, which happened after a roadside bomb hit a Marine convoy, killing a Humvee driver and wounding two other Marines.
Wuterich and a squad member are accused of shooting five men at the scene, after which Wuterich allegedly ordered his squad into several houses, where they cleared rooms with grenades and gunfire, killing Iraqis, including women and children.
In the interview aired March 15, 2007, Wuterich recounted to CBS correspondent Scott Pelley his recollection of the events that led to the deaths.
Attorneys for CBS News, which is a division of CBS Corp., called the subpoena "unreasonable and oppressive."
Wuterich's attorney, Neal Puckett, said CBS' appeal indefinitely postpones Wuterich's court-martial.
"It puts his life on hold basically. He is waiting to get back into court," Puckett said.
Authorities originally charged eight Marines - four enlisted men with counts related to the killings and four officers in connection with the investigation. Charges were dropped against five men and a sixth, 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson of Springboro, Ohio, was acquitted of charges he hindered the investigation.
A judge dismissed charges earlier this month against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani of Rangely, Colo., after finding that a four-star general overseeing the case was improperly influenced by an investigator. Military prosecutors are appealing that ruling.
Wuterich is currently the sole defendant. He has pleaded not guilty.
Puckett said once the CBS News matter was resolved, they would pursue an undue command influence motion - similar to the one that resulted in dismissal of charges against Chessani.
© 2008 Associated Press