Marine Sues Murtha For Libel

The head of the Marine unit implicated in the Haditha killings is launching a libel suit against Congressman John Murtha for his statements on the Haditha incident.

“The false, misleading and defamatory statements disseminated by Mr. Murtha portray … Wuterich as a cold-blooded killer, untrained and falling victim to stress, as well as being involved in a cover-up of the tragic events of November 19, 2005,” the Marine’s lawyers say in the court filing.

“Mr. Murtha has intentionally disseminated with malice his hearsay version of the events of November 19, 2005 with knowledge of the false and libelous nature of the statements contained therein and/or with gross negligence or reckless disregard for the truth,” the suit states.

As much as I think Murtha’s statements were reprehensible, I don’t see this case as likely to go forward. Murtha not only has Congressional privilege, but Staff Sgt. Wuterich must prove that Murtha knew the charges to have been false and had malicious intent in spreading them. None of those contentions seem likely to be proven in court.

Murtha’s comments may have been appropriate and a sign that Murtha was far too quick to rush to judgement in this case, but the idea that one can win a defamation suit based on privileged comments in the first place seems more than a little far-fetched. Unless they can prove that Murtha knew that the Haditha allegations were false (and the investigations into the incident do seem to support the idea that something did happen in Haditha), there’s no basis for a suit here. The law gives broad latitude for lawmakers to say things, even if they’re wrong and based on heresay – the correct response to which should be to see that those lawmakers fail to be reelected.

One thought on “Marine Sues Murtha For Libel

  1. “Murtha’s comments may have been appropriate and a sign that Murtha was far too quick to rush to judgement in this case[…]”

    Does this mean that it is appropriate to rush (far too quickly) to judgement? The same way it is appropriate to rush to war?

    Sorry, I could not resist – an old weakness of mine.


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