Marine Corps to retry sergeant for 2006 death of Iraqi civilian
The Marine Corps has decided to retry a sergeant from Camp Pendleton who spent six years behind bars for his alleged role in killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian but whose case was overturned on appeal.
Arraignment is set for Wednesday at Camp Pendleton for Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins, who has been free since a military court of appeals overturned his conviction on grounds he was improperly denied an attorney when investigators began to question him.
Hutchins and his attorney had hoped the Marine Corps would drop the case and allow him to leave the service and return to civilian life.
Instead, Lt. Gen. Robert Neiler, commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, decided the case against Hutchins should go to a retrial at court martial.
Since the appeals court ruling in 2013, Hutchins has been assigned to Camp Pendleton. He and his family live in Oceanside.
He served six years of an 11-year sentence for unpremeditated murder, first at the prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., and then at the brig at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
Seven enlisted Marines and one Navy corpsman from Camp Pendleton were convicted at court-martial in the killing that occurred in 2006 in Hamandiya, west of Baghdad.
As the squad leader, Hutchins received the longest sentence. All of the others are now freed; none served more than 18 months.
The plan to drag an unarmed Iraqi from his home at night and kill him was developed as a warning to other Iraqis not to attack Marines with sniper shots or buried roadside bombs.
In the months after the killing of the 52-year-old retired Iraqi police officer, attacks on Marines in the region dropped.
The Hutchins case has been closely watched by former Marines, including Bing West, former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, author of books about Marines in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
West has urged the military to drop the case and let Hutchins go free.