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Marine ordered freed after Iraq killing verdict overturned

By Julie Watson

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:57 a.m. HST, Jul 20, 2013

SAN DIEGO » The U.S. Marine Corps released a sergeant Friday whose murder conviction was overturned in a major blow to the military's prosecution of Iraq war crimes.

Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III, of Plymouth, Mass., walked out of the brig at the Marine Corps Miramar Air Station in San Diego after having served more than half of his 11-year sentence.

"The emotions I am feeling right now are hard to describe," Hutchins said in a statement issued through his attorney. "I am overcome. This is all I ever wanted."

Once his release paperwork was processed, Hutchins was to be transported by Marine Corps officials to Camp Pendleton, where he would check in to his new unit at the base's headquarters, said Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel.

Hutchins led an eight-man squad accused of kidnapping an Iraqi man from his home in April 2006, marching him to a ditch and shooting him to death in the village of Hamdania.

Hutchins has said he thought the man — who turned out to be a retired policeman — was an insurgent leader.

None of the other seven squad members served more than 18 months.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces overturned Hutchins' conviction on June 26, supporting his claims that his rights were violated when he was held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer for seven days during his 2006 interrogation in Iraq.

The move was the latest in a series of twists for Hutchins, whose case was overturned once by a lower court three years ago only to be reinstated in 2011 by the same court that agreed with his latest petition.

Under the military justice system, Hutchins could not be freed until the court ruled on a Navy motion in response to the June 26 decision.

Prosecutors asked the court to reconsider its decision to toss out the conviction, saying Hutchins waived his right to counsel at the time and willfully told his side of the story without coercion.

The court Thursday denied that request and issued a mandate that he be released.

The case, however, is not closed.

The Navy can order the case be retried or prosecutors can appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Navy issued a statement Friday saying it was exploring those options and a decision is expected next month.

Kloppel said the Camp Pendleton unit Hutchins will be assigned to will determine his job assignment.

Hutchins' military attorney, Maj. Babu Kaza, said Hutchins will live off base in nearby Oceanside with his wife and two children.

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cojef wrote:
Really tough situation for this marine, things do happen in war. Judgements must be made to protect each other from the enemy. It is survival on the battlefield, no second chances. Error in judgement, sure it happens all the time. Feel for this marine and his family. Hope he can resolve this chapter in his life and be free from further problems that the Service may pursue. Victims of the war, for certain.
on July 20,2013 | 11:27AM
whs1966 wrote:
"The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces overturned Hutchins' conviction on June 26, supporting his claims that his rights were violated when he was held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer for seven days during his 2006 interrogation in Iraq." Would this same court of appeals release the Guantanamo prisoners for the same reason. Oh, but he was justified to be judge, jury and executioner because he believed the man he & his squad-mates executed was an insurgent. Do we need t wonder why so many people hate us?
on July 20,2013 | 12:04PM
juke wrote:
if you are not a combat vet and been their.all of you shut your mouth.
on July 20,2013 | 05:47PM
LMO wrote:
He was freed NOT because he was found not guilty, but because of a technicality. He still murdered an innocent man.
on July 20,2013 | 12:43PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Join the murderers who all got away with murder .... The murderers of the My Lai Massacre...... Of the Haditha Massacre.
on July 20,2013 | 01:14PM
Mythman wrote:
Love the USMC
on July 20,2013 | 01:40PM
nitpikker wrote:
is it just me or does the middle-east conflict exemplify the notion that you better have eyes in the back of your head to keep a tab on "friendlies"? it seems it doesnt matter if they wear the same uniform, you never know who will shoot you in the back over there. i dont recall so many "friendly" killings in any other conflict.
on July 20,2013 | 02:24PM
McB0B wrote:
Don't be surprised if the Iraqi insurgent leaders order the release of everybody they've got locked up for atrocities against our people in response, all none of them.
on July 20,2013 | 03:57PM
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