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Military to appeal overturning of ex-Marine's conviction

Lawrence Hutchins had originally been found guilty in the execution-style killing of an Iraqi man

June 08, 2010|Tony Perry

Military prosecutors have decided to appeal a court decision that overturned the conviction of Lawrence Hutchins, a former Marine sergeant and squad leader still behind bars in the 2006 execution-style killing of an Iraqi man.

Hutchins, 26, now in the brig at Camp Pendleton, was among seven Marines and a Navy corpsman sentenced in the killing. He was convicted in 2007 of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to a dishonorable discharge and 15 years in prison.

The prison sentence was reduced to 11 years by the commanding general. None of the other defendants served more than 16 months or are still in the military.

In April, the Washington, D.C.-based Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Hutchins' conviction on the grounds that he was denied a fair trial because one of his attorneys was allowed to leave the case just as it went to court-martial.

After that 8-to-1 ruling, Hutchins was transferred to the Camp Pendleton brig from the military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., to await possible release in case prosecutors opted not to appeal.

On Monday, the judge advocate general of the Navy announced a decision to appeal the lower court's ruling to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces. The military lawyers have 30 days to file briefs in support of the appeal.

According to court-martial testimony, Hutchins was the ringleader in a plot to drag a suspected insurgent from his home and kill him as a warning to other insurgents to stop attacking Marines with roadside bombs and sniper shots in the Hamandiya area west of Baghdad. An attempt to make the killing look like a firefight soon collapsed, and the eight were returned to Camp Pendleton. Hutchins has been offered a job as an emergency medical technician with the sheriff in Plymouth County, Mass., where his family lives, once he is free.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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