Former Marine Acquitted of Iraqi Killings in Landmark Trial
IRVINE, Calif. — A former Marine accused of killing unarmed Iraqi detainees was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter Thursday in a first-of-its-kind federal trial.
The jury took six hours to find Jose Luis Nazario Jr. not guilty of charges that he killed or caused others to kill four unarmed detainees on Nov. 9, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq, during some of the fiercest fighting of the war.
The verdict left the 28-year-old defendant in tears. He cried so loud that the judge smacked his gavel to call for order. Nazario's family and friends also sobbed in the courtroom.
"It's been a long, hard year for my family," Nazario said outside the courtroom. "I need a moment to catch my breath and try to get my life back together."
Thursday's verdict marks the first time a civilian jury has determined whether the alleged actions of a former military service member in combat violated the law of war.
One of the jurors, Ingrid Wicken, hugged Nazario's sobbing mother, Sandra Montanez, without speaking after the verdict was read. "I watched her all week. She was being tortured every day," Wicken said later.
Wicken said the panel acquitted Nazario because there was not enough evidence against him.
"I think you don't know what goes on in combat until you are in combat," she said.
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