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Murtha Must Testify In Marine Defamation Case

From a distraught Associated Press:

Murtha to testify in defamation case

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer

A federal judge refused Friday to dismiss a defamation case against Rep. John P. Murtha and ordered the Pennsylvania Democrat to give a sworn deposition in the case.

A Marine Corps sergeant is suing the 16-term congressman for alleging “cold-blooded murder and war crimes” by unnamed soldiers in connection with the deaths of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.

The deaths became known in May 2006 when Murtha, who opposes the Iraq war, said at a Capitol Hill news conference that a Pentagon war crimes investigation will show Marines killed dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians in the town in 2005.

Murtha’s office declined to comment on the ruling. He has said his intention was to draw attention to the pressure put on troops in Iraq and to cover-up the incident.

The Justice Department wanted the case dismissed because Murtha was acting in his official role as a lawmaker. Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Henault said the comments were made as part of the debate over the war in Iraq…

Collyer said she was troubled by the idea the lawmakers are immune from lawsuits regardless of what they say to advance their political careers.

Mark S. Zaid, the attorney for the plaintiff, Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, said he wanted Murtha’s deposition and limited documents from the congressman, including calendars and documents related to which reporters he spoke to.

Zaid said Murtha was not acting within his congressional duties and was instead trying to embarrass then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, with whom Zaid said Murtha had a personal dispute.

Collyer, who was appointed to the bench by President Bush, said the case wasn’t about whether to recall troops from Iraq and she didn’t “particularly care” about Murtha’s views on the war. She said the law cares only about what Murtha intended when he made the comments…

Excellent. I was afraid this would go away.

The Justice Department wanted the case dismissed because Murtha was acting in his official role as a lawmaker…

There is definitely something wrong with our Justice Department.

The only legal protection afforded US Congressmen comes from the so-called “Speech Or Debate Clause in the Constitution.

Wikipedia explains:

Speech or Debate Clause

The Speech or Debate Clause (found in Article I, Section 6, Clause 1) is a clause in the United States Constitution which states that members of both Houses of Congress

“…shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same, and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

Its intended purpose is to prevent a President or other officials of the Executive branch from having members arrested on a pretext to prevent them from voting a certain way or otherwise taking actions with which he or she might disagree.

None of this applies in John Murtha’s case. (There’s more on the Speech Or Debate clause here.)

By the way, please note how the AP helpfully points out that Judge Collyer was a Bush appointment.

It’s just like they do when covering the outrages by judges appointed to the bench by Mr. Clinton.

(Of course I am kidding.)

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, September 28th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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