Tharp family questions trial of Parris Island staff sergeant

(Parris Island) February 23, 2006 - A Parris Island swim instructor charged in the death of a Marine recruit was found not guilty Wednesday night. A judge ruled Staff Sergeant Nadya Lopez was not responsible for Jason Tharp's death, leading Jason's family to question the trial.

Moments after the staff sergeant charged in Jason Tharp's death was cleared, Tharp's father spoke to news cameras, "It feels like our son died again."

The two-day trial concluded when a Marine judge found Staff Sergeant Nadya Lopez wasn't responsible for Tharp's drowning. But everyone WIS asked had trouble pointing to what went wrong at the pool.

Lopez said, "You heard all the testimony. I can't comment. I'm not a doctor. I don't know."

When defense attorney Lt. Col. Scott Jack was asked how Tharp drowned, "I know he inhaled water as our pathologist said, when that occurred was within seconds."

A Marine investigation found Lopez kept Tharp in the water while an unsafe condition occurred, and forced him to remain in the pool against his will.

Military lawyer Bill Cassara says, "I'm not surprised by the verdict."

But Cassara said he knew a negligent homicide conviction would be tough, because prosecutors also had to prove Lopez failed to recognize Tharp was no longer safely able to train.

"Most of the witnesses, if not all, said she did those things and took reasonable care."

But to the Tharps, there is "no justice at Parris Island."

To the family that lost their son, the trial seemed unfair because the lawyers for both sides were Marines.

Cassara thinks that likely didn't matter, "I can't imagine the grief that they are going through and why they think this was a rush job by the Marines. But, in reality, the end result of this case is probably pretty much what it would have been anywhere else."

Reported by Heather Brown

Posted 9:50pm by Chantelle Janelle