Jury selection begins in court-martial for Marine accused in death
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) -- Attorneys began questioning Marines who could potentially serve as jurors in the court martial of a reserve sergeant accused of kicking an Iraqi prisoner who later died.
Reserve Sgt. Gary Pittman could get more than three years in a military prison if found guilty of assault and dereliction of duty in the case, the first court-martial known to be connected to the death of a prisoner in Iraq.
Pittman is accused of kicking the chest of Nagem Hatab, who later suffocated from a crushed windpipe. Hatab had been rumored to be an official of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and part of the ambush of a U.S. Army convoy that left 11 soldiers dead and led to the capture of Pfc. Jessica Lynch and five others.
Attorneys from both sides questioned 13 potential jurors for indications of potential bias Monday, asking whether they had seen media coverage of the case -- and most had.
The lawyers asked if the potential jurors had guarded or worked with detainees, had followed separate allegations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, and about their feelings on the use of force to subdue unruly prisoners.
Pittman, 40, sat quietly as the Marines, all from this base north of San Diego, underwent questioning. Attorneys were expected to select the final panel, which could include as few as five and as many as all 13 members, by Tuesday.
The potential jurors are all officers, and were drawn from a pool of about 30 Camp Pendleton officers who filled out questionnaires. The base commander than selected the 13 based on their responses.