An investigating officer has recommended that a Marine who led his squad in an assault that killed 24 Iraqi men, women and children should not be tried for murder, a defense attorney said Thursday.

If that recommendation and an earlier one made by the same officer is accepted by the general overseeing the case, which is likely based on past practice, no one will face murder charges in the biggest case involving civilian deaths in Iraq.

That also could apply to an Edmond Marine, Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, who faces murder charges, but awaits the general’s decision.

Lt. Col. Paul Ware recommended that Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, charged with the unpremeditated murder of 17 Iraqis, should be tried instead for negligent homicide in the deaths of five children and two women in the Iraqi town of Haditha, Wuterich’s attorney Neal Puckett said.

Wuterich, 27, of Meriden, Conn., has said he regrets the deaths but had operated within combat rules and “made the best decisions I could have at the time.”

“We’re both very pleased and also not surprised, given how the other cases have gone,” Puckett said. “There has never been any inkling that any of these Marines lost control or went on a rampage.”

The killings occurred Nov. 19, 2005, after a roadside bomb hit a Marine convoy.

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