Marine gets no more prison time
The sergeant, convicted again in the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian, had served seven years.
CAMP PENDLETON — A Marine jury Thursday sentenced a Marine sergeant to a bad-conduct discharge but no additional prison time for killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian in 2006.
Prosecutors had asked jurors at the retrial of Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins to sentence him to a dishonorable discharge and additional prison time.
Hutchins, 31, had served more than seven years of an 11-year sentence before his 2007 conviction was overturned and the case sent back for retrial.
Hutchins’ wife, Reyna, burst into tears of relief at the sentencing by the six-Marine jury. The jury decided that time served behind bars was sufficient.
The jury took less than two hours to reach its sentencing decision. The day’s session included emotional testimony by Hutchins’ father, mother, wife and their 10-year-old daughter asking for leniency.
When his daughter testified, Hutchins wept openly and placed his head on the defense table. Jurors listened intently.
Tearfully, Kylie Hutchins talked about missing her father desperately when he was in prison and then the brig, and being overjoyed when he returned home after the appeals court overturned his conviction.
The brig at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, she said, “was this big house and it was very sad.”
With her father home, she said, “we’re finally a whole family and not a missing puzzle part.”
Hutchins, his wife, and their three children live at Camp Pendleton, where he has been assigned since being released in 2013 to await retrial.
The lead prosecutor, Maj. Adam Workman, told jurors that what Hutchins did represented a “wholesale abandonment of moral prowess.”
“When we abandon that moral authority, we are no better than our enemy,” Workman said.
The maximum additional time behind bars would have been a little less than four years given the time he had spent at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., prison and the Miramar brig.
On Wednesday, the jury — three officers and three senior enlisted personnel — found Hutchins guilty of the same charge that he was convicted of in 2007: unpremeditated murder in the shooting death of an unarmed civilian who was dragged from his home, bound and riddled with bul- lets. The killing occurred in Hamandiya, west of Baghdad.
Hutchins’ attorney, Christopher Oprison, had argued to jurors that Hutchins and other members of the so-called Pendleton 8 were framed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
In pretrial motions, he said Hutchins could not get a fair trial because of comments made by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
Although disappointed by the guilty verdict, Oprison said late Thursday that he was pleased that the same jury decided to sentence his client to “time served.”
“He’s going home,” Oprison told reporters. “We wanted him home for Father’s Day, and now he is.”
Hutchins’ 2007 conviction was set aside twice by an appellate court, and Wednesday’s guilty verdict came after a retrial.
In a 90-minute unsworn presentation to the jury Thursday, Hutchins talked of the brutalizing effect of the war in Iraq in 2006.
“I was a different man at this location, at this time, after what I had seen,” he said. “I had ice in my veins.”
In 2007, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, later reduced to 11 years.
According to prosecutors, Hutchins, as squad leader, devised a plan to capture a suspected insurgent and kill him as an example to other Iraqis not to attack Americans. When they could not find him, prosecutors said, they went next door and captured a 52-year-old retired police officer on April 26, 2006.
Although difficult to determine cause and effect, attacks against U.S. troops in Hamandiya declined after the killing, leading some Marines to believe the incident, while brutal and illegal, saved American lives.
During Hutchins’ retrial, six former squad members refused to testify against him, citing their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The six signed affidavits disavowing comments made during their courts-martial, saying they were coerced by prosecutors and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
A seventh squad member testified at the retrial, telling jurors that after the Iraqi was killed, Hutchins told the squad, “Gents, congratulations, we just got away with murder.”
Of eight squad members convicted in the killing, Hutchins received the longest sentence. None of the others served more than 18 months in the brig.
The retrial jury’s verdict and sentence will be reviewed by Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command.
SGT. LAWRENCE HUTCHINS in 2010. “I had ice in my veins” at the time of the killing, he told the jury.