Marine set to be tried for 3rd time in Iraq

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A re­trial is set to begin for a U.S. Marine con­victed in a high-pro­file court mar­tial for the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civil­ian.

Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III is sched­uled to be tried again Mon­day at Camp Pendle­ton, north of San Diego, the Los An­ge­les Times re­ported. Hutchins was con­victed in 2007 by a Marine jury of un­premed­i­tated mur­der for killing a 52-year-old for­mer Iraqi po­lice of­fi­cer in Ham­da­nia vil­lage.

The killing was meant to warn Iraqis to stop plant­ing road­side bombs and co­op­er­at­ing with in­sur­gent snipers.

Six other Marines and a Navy corps­man were also con­victed in the Pendle­ton 8 case. Hutchins, the squad leader, has served over half his 11-year sen­tence.

Ap­peals courts twice over­turned his con­vic­tion, once be­cause in­ter­roga­tors vi­o­lated his rights in 2006 and be­cause his lawyer was al­lowed to re­tire on the eve of the trial.

Hutchins has been free on ap­peal since mid-2013, re­stored to his rank of sergeant and as­signed to Camp Pendle­ton, where he lives with his wife and chil­dren.

Sev­eral of his co-de­fen­dants, who are free and living civil­ian life, be­lieve the killing was bru­tal but saved Amer­i­can lives be­cause at­tacks on U.S. troops de­clined in the next months. But other Marines be­lieve the corps must retry him to prove it holds ranks accountable for unau­tho­rized use of deadly force.

“The Marine Corps is do­ing what jus­tice de­mands,” said Gary So­lis, a re­tired Marine and now an ad­junct law pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity. “An in­no­cent Iraqi male was taken prisoner by Hutchins and his squad and, while he was bound, re­peat­edly shot in the face (and) mur­dered.”

Christo­pher Oprison, a for­mer Marine and Hutchins’ de­fense at­tor­ney, said he be­lieves the Marine Corps is pur­su­ing Hutchins’ case for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.

The case “is an in­dict­ment of the en­tire mil­i­tary jus­tice sys­tem,” Oprison said. Com­ments made by Navy Sec­re­tary Ray Mabus in 2009 al­leg­ing guilt have tainted the case and pre­vented Hutchins from get­ting a fair trial, he said.

“The po­lit­i­cal pres­sure to make an ex­am­ple out of Sgt. Hutchins is pal­pa­ble,” Oprison said. “Enough is enough. The gloves are off. We hope to have Sgt. Hutchins home with his wife and chil­dren on Fa­ther’s Day — a free man.”

Marine pros­e­cu­tors would not com­ment.

Per mil­i­tary rules, the jury will in­clude of­fi­cers and en­listed. Most if not all have served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan or both. The max­i­mum sen­tence is roughly four years, the re­main­der of the 11-year sen­tence. The jury could also sen­tence Hutchins to time served, al­low­ing him to im­me­di­ately leave the Marine Corps. He has had job of­fers.

Af­ter a ver­dict, Lt. Gen. Ken­neth McKen­zie Jr., who com­mands the U.S. Marine Forces Cen­tral Com­mand, can dis­miss a guilty ver­dict or re­duce a sen­tence. He can­not man­date a guilty ver­dict or in­crease a sen­tence.

AP

In this Aug. 2, 2013 file photo, Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III speaks at his home in Ocean­side, Cal­i­for­nia.

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