SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The government cannot be held liable for the death of a Marine killed during a training exercise, a federal judge ruled in rejecting a request by the young man's father that he ignore a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Pfc. Jeremy Ross Purcell, 19, was killed during an August 2002 training exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was shot in the chest four times with live ammunition, rather than the blanks the Marines were instructed to use.
His father, Jon Purcell of Provo, sued the federal government for negligence.
In an order made public Monday, U.S. District Judge David Sam said the father's claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act is blocked by a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
"As compelling as the allegations are in this case, this court does not have the discretion to reject the Feres doctrine," Sam wrote. "Only the Supreme Court can overrule Feres."
In Feres vs. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot be held liable for injuries suffered by military personnel that occur incident to service in the armed forces.
Jon Purcell had urged Sam to use his discretion to reject the "ill-conceived, inequitable and unjustifiable" Feres ruling.
Purcell said he was not surprised by Sam's dismissal of the case and he would like to appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but does not know if he can afford to do so.
Purcell has been proceeding in the lawsuit on his own, without an attorney.
His lawsuit alleged his son's death was the result of failure by the Marine Corps to formulate and enforce policies for the proper use, storage and accountability of ammunition used in training activities.
Such policies, rather than relying on individual Marines to check their ammunition, would have prevented the accident, Purcell contended.
The Marine who fired the fatal shots was not named in Purcell's suit. He pleaded guilty to negligent homicide as part of a plea agreement and was sentenced in August 2003 to one year in a military jail.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)