As the NYT, here, and lots o’ others, including Stars and Stripes here, are reporting, members found MSgt John Hatley guilty of the murder of four Iraqi detainees in 2007. Hatley was acquitted of charges involving the killing a wounded detainee and conspiracy to conceal evidence. Sentencing is expected today.

The New York Times story has an interesting observation from James Culp, a former Army JA and currently involved in court-martial defense in private practice:

Military legal experts said the soldiers’ rank showed the frustration of fighting insurgents who blended in with the locals. “When the first sergeant of a company snaps, taking a sergeant first class and a senior medic with him, it’s a sign that they’ve just had too much,” said James D. Culp, a former Army trial lawyer.

Thought that would be an apt sentencing strategy for MSgt Hatley.

22 Responses to “Master Sergeant Hatley Found Guilty In 2007 Detainee Murders, Sentencing Today”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Problem is the minimum is Life with. Not much room for “sentencing strategy.”

  2. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    Life with is better than life without. He received life with.

    See story Link here

  3. Anonymous says:

    “life with” is better for who? And is he

    1) A victim himself; or
    2) A war criminal; or
    3) A patriot, killing bad guys who deserve killing?

  4. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    Anon 2:13 PM:

    I had a response for you, but now I just feel, no resposne is needed. have a wonderful day.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just found this blog not long ago, and I just have to ask you lawyers a question: how can what this man did be murder? The people he killed were bad guys, in a war zone, and we’re at war. He killed bad guys and saved his own men’s lives. How is that murder?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Navarre, do you have an opinion on Anon 1413’s question?

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think anyone (and especially the squids on this board) can judge MSG Hatley’s actions unless they’ve walked in his shoes. IMO, those scumbags needed killing and Hatley should get a medal, not life in prison. I’d like to hear one of these smart lawyers argue with that.

  8. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:


    “I don’t think anyone (and especially the squids on this board) can judge MSG Hatley’s actions unless they’ve walked in his shoes. IMO, those scumbags needed killing and Hatley should get a medal, not life in prison. I’d like to hear one of these smart lawyers argue with that.”

    I am up for the challenge, so let me take a shot. So are you arguing for abandonment of the members’ system or the Military Justice system as a whole? No one on this blog has judged MSG Hatley, we left that to eight members in Germany, and now the CA. Presumably the defense felt those members were sufficiently qualified to judge MSG Hatley unless they also believe in abolishing the members system or the Military Justice system.

    In conclusion, I don’t have an opinion on this debate because, from all I read in reports, MSG Hatley had competent counsel that performed admirably in their duties in the trial and presumably sentencing. And, from what has been reported, the government did not to my knowledge commit any violation of ethcial or discovery rules–I haven’t seen any reports on their performance so I can’t speak to what has been reported there.

    That’s the system, and I don’t think it is all that bad a system overall. At times it breaks down, as we have pointed out on this blog, and needs a swift kick to keep it on track. And the system could use some tweaks, also as we pointed out on this blog, and that’s why we have the JSC and our elected officals.

  9. Dwight Sullivan says:

    I have no knowledge of this case, nor do I purport to. But I hope no one thinks that it wouldn’t be a criminal offense for a member of the United States military to shoot four handcuffed and blindfolded Iraqi detainees in the back of their heads. Killing detainees execution style would be an obvious law of war violation. We have a military justice system, in large part, to ensure discipline in combat. Prosecuting law of war violations is a necessary function of a military justice system.

  10. Christopher Mathews says:

    Anon 1749: I don’t think anyone (and especially the squids on this board) can judge MSG Hatley’s actions unless they’ve walked in his shoes.You will no doubt be heartened to know that MSG Hatfield was tried by Army NCOs and officers. I’m not sure whether you would be satisfied that those soldiers “walked in his shoes;” but as luck would have it, there is no such requirement in Article 25.

    IMO, those scumbags needed killing and Hatley should get a medal, not life in prison.The members of the court — who actually heard the evidence presented at trial — apparently do not share your opinion.

    I’d like to hear one of these smart lawyers argue with that.And I, for one, would love to hear you expound at length to the court-martial members about how you think they got their verdict all wrong.

  11. Anonymous says:

    We are incredibly proud of the processing of these cases, which went relatively quickly, and the performance of the prosecutors, who were fair, ethical, hard-working, and skilled. They represented the Army, and did a tremendous job. It is important that these crimes are prosecuted to their fullest extent, because the US abides by the laws of war. Killing detainees, however hostile, may provide very short-term tactical gains, but will only contribute to long term operational and strategic failure.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have serious policy issues with the way the war is being fought. What Hatley did should be the rule for how to fight this war.

    However, it is not the rule, and he did kill these men without legal justification. (aside: assuming no command interference or government misconduct in the CM).

    He had to be found guilty and must be punished. As far as punishment, since his actions were what I think our policy should be, I think the president should commute to 45 days extra duty.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Navare, your didn’t actually answer the question.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Anon 0908,

    Navarre has 2 “r”

    Assuming you are the “squid hater” it may come to surprise you that squids of all ranks and backgrounds have had boots on ground, even some on this site. While the squid lawyers may not have knocked down doors and cleared rooms, plenty of them performed duty identical to their Army and Marine brethren. As an aside, many other squids have performed in more traditional combat duty, so the sweeping generalization is insulting to them.

    While I may empathize with the fear, frustration, and lack of control and purpose which existed in MSG H’s situation over there, it cannot justify or excuse his actions, which is what a panel of members (presumably with some combat experience) so indicated by their conclusions.

    Of course the situation which this soldier and Soldiers and Marines find themselves in is one in which they are less than optimally trained to meet. Put them in the right environment and Soldiers and Marines will perform admirably, breaking shit and killing things. Ask them to perform police actions, be bait for insurgents, and nation build (in a nation with a political base and population that seems less interested in it than us) over the course of multiple deployments for extended periods time and I am frankly shocked that more cases like this do not exist. Which only highlights the wrongfulness of action in this case and demonstrates the amazing ability of Coalition Forces to effectively restrain themselves when so many others in this world would not be able to do so under like circumstances.


  15. Anonymous says:

    The members convicted the MSG “of killing four handcuffed and blindfolded Iraqi men with pistol shots to the backs of their heads shortly after arresting them.”

    Anon 1513 said: “The people he killed were bad guys, in a war zone, and we’re at war.”

    How do we know they were “bad guys”? Does it shock you to think that we have (many times) detained otherwise innocent Iraqi men for appearing in the wrong place at the wrong time? How do we sort the bad detainees from the good? Well, we and the Iraqis have processes (albeit somewhat flawed) to try and figure that out. With that in mind, I respectfully submit that we refrain from condoning summary executions of detainees in the field.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Anon 1221 has clearly never deployed to a combat zone.

  17. Dwight Sullivan says:

    The important point is that it violates both U.S. and international law to summarily execute a detainee even if he is a bad guy.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Dwight – I don’t think anybody disagrees with you on your last comment. But perhaps prosecutorial discretion should come into play on some of these “fog of war” crimes . . .

  19. Anonymous says:

    Anon 0854,

    I’m not he who you refer to, but I would have said the same thing and I have deployed to a combat zone.

  20. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    Anon 238

    I am a big proponent of more prosecutorial/CA discretion in the referral of courts martial. But, I daily to see how the facts, as the media have reported from testimony at the trial, qualify as “fog of war” crimes. As I have read the news reports, the crime was the shooting of four blindfolded and handcuffed detainees in the back of the head after they had been interrogated-not some sort of an attack on an in lawful target as a result of the “fog of war.”. I am more than willing to be re-educated on what the dog of war is and how far it extends. And since I have not been in combat, something about 95% of judge advocates will have to concede since even if they were in Iraq they likely were not in combat, I am certainly open to other perspectives.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I know him personally and I can attest to the fact that he is a professional Soldier, a Leader and to all the memories i still hold of him a role model. This all took me by surprise, for the Soldier I remember helped me, devoted much personal time and he was only concerned with developing you to your fullest potential. So, unless you know the man, do not judge him. He still has an appeal and perhaps we will discover this was all in error. This is all hard to digest, especially when this is a person whom you’ve served with and know that this is not the man you know.

  22. Jake11B says:

    What were the names of the detainees that were killed? What was the coroners report on their cause of death? What about the ballistics report? Were the weapons that were used brought in as evidence? Where were the detainees from? Did the relatives come to claim the bodies?