CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – A Marine reservist was found guilty Thursday of killing an Iraqi soldier last year while they stood watch together at a guard post in Fallujah.
Lance Cpl. Delano Holmes was convicted of negligent homicide, but acquitted of the greater charge of unpremeditated homicide. He was also convicted of making a false official statement.
A panel of three officers and five enlisted Marines returned the verdict after two days of deliberating over whether the killing of Pvt. Munther Muhammed Hassin was an act of murder or self-defense.
Holmes, 22, of Indianapolis, made no remarks in court immediately after the verdict, a Marines spokeswoman said.
A sentencing hearing was set to begin immediately following the verdict. Holmes faced up to eight years in confinement, reduction to the rank of private, forfeiture of pay and allowances and dishonorable discharge.
Attorneys painted stark contrasts of what happened in the fatal fight in the pre-dawn hours of Dec. 31 that began after Hassin allegedly opened his cell phone and lit a cigarette.
Defense lawyer Steve Cook told jurors the men were not supposed to display any illuminated objects because of the threat of sniper fire, and Holmes tried repeatedly to get Hassin to extinguish the cigarette
Holmes told investigators he knocked the cigarette from the soldier's hand and the two got into a fight, falling to the ground.
During the struggle, Holmes felt Hassin reaching for his loaded AK-47, so he stabbed him with a bayonet that doubles as a utility knife, Cook said.
But prosecutors say it was a case of murder.
"Not a scratch. Not a blemish. ... There is not a mark on him. There is no self-defense," Capt. Brett Miner told jurors during closing arguments. "There can be lawful killings during a time of war. This is not a lawful killing."
Miner told jurors that Holmes killed the soldier and then set up the scene, firing the soldier's AK-47. He said jurors Holmes "mauled" Hassin with 17 stab wounds, 26 slashes and a chop to the face that nearly severed his nose.