Appeals Court Overturns Marine’s 2006 Murder conviction

A U.S. military court recently threw out the murder conviction of a former Marine sergeant who was charged with killing in Iraqi man in 2006.

The Washington D.C.-based military appeals court ruled that Lawrence Hutchins was not given a fair trial, since his defense attorney was inappropriately dismissed from his service just before the Hutchins’ court martial went to trial, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Hutchins is about four years into an 11-year prison sentence after he was convicted of killing Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, in the town of Hamandiya, west of Baghdad. Hutchins and eight other U.S. soldiers were charged with leading Awad to a ditch near his home and shooting him.

Hutchins was convicted of unpremeditated murder and was dishonorably discharged. While seven other Marines and one Navy corpsman were tried in the case, none of the others served more than 16 months behind bars.

Marine Lance Cpl. John J. Jodka III, of Encinitas, Calif., pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Navy corpsman Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos of Franklin, Wis., pleaded guilty to kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap and making false official statements.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., of Matlock, Wash., pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, of Tracy, Calif., pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors working the case claimed that Hutchins led an effort to kidnap a suspected insurgent, kill him and then cover up the death by claiming the man died in a fire fight.

The killing was meant to send a warning to other insurgents to show a punishment for planting bombs along the roads in Iraq, according to the L.A. Times.

Hutchins was originally sentenced to 15 years in prison, but his term was reduced to 11 by the commanding general.

“As a mother, honest to God, I’m so happy” his mother, Kathy Hutchins, told the Associated Press. “I thank God for these professionals because they restored my faith in my country. Wow!”

The next move in the case will lie in the hands of the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, who will decide whether to appeal the ruling or proceed with a new trial, according to Associated Press. No decision about whether Hutchins will remain in prison during the deciding process was announced.

“Let’s hope Larry can come home,” she said. “It’s not like the charges can be dropped, there still can be a retrial, but we hope that he can come home and hold his daughter.”

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