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US Marine murder trial will use Google Earth

Prosecution witness to make 'computerised map'

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The trial of a US Marine accused of murdering an Iraqi man will make use of Google Earth, according to a ruling last week.

Corporal Trent Thomas is one of eight Marines accused of killing ex-policeman Hashim Ibrahim Awad in April last year. Technology issues have already figured in hearings regarding the slaying, as prosecution witnesses have testified that elaborate subterfuge was used to fool an overhead thermal-imagery surveillance drone.

During pre-trial procedures in California last week, it emerged that Private Robert Pennington would make use of Google Earth imagery during his testimony at Corporal Thomas' trial. The satellite pictures would be used to lay out for jurors the key sites relating to Awad's death. Pennington has already reached a plea bargain with prosecutors, and is serving an eight-year sentence for his part in the affair. He was also demoted down from Lance-Corporal.

The prosecution allege that the accused Marines had plotted to kidnap a suspected insurgent named Saleh Gowad, make it appear that they had surprised him planting a roadside bomb, and then shoot him. Unable to find Gowad, according to the prosecution, the troops seized Awad from his home at random and killed him instead.

According to the North County Times, Pennington has created a "computerised map" of the area using Google Earth, which will be shown during Thomas' trial, set to commence on 9 July.

Five of the eight accused Marines have reached plea bargains and received sentences ranging from one to eight years. Thomas and two co-defendants are all to be tried this summer. ®

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