Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III is scheduled to be tried again Monday at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, the Los Angeles Times reported. Hutchins was convicted in 2007 by a jury of unpremeditated murder for killing a 52-year-old former Iraqi police in Hamdania village.
The killing was meant to warn Iraqis to stop planting roadside bombs and cooperating with insurgent snipers.
Six other and a corpsman were also convicted in the Pendleton 8 case. Hutchins, the squad leader, has served over half his 11-year sentence.
Appeals courts twice overturned his conviction, once because interrogators violated his rights in 2006 and because his lawyer was allowed to retire on the eve of the trial.
Hutchins, who is from Plymouth, Massachusetts, has been free on appeal since mid-2013, restored to his rank of sergeant and assigned to Camp Pendleton, where he lives with his wife and children.
Several of his co-defendants, who are free and living civilian life, believe the killing was brutal but saved American lives because attacks on U.S. declined in the next months. But other believe the corps must retry him to prove it holds ranks accountable for unauthorized use of deadly force.
“The Corps is doing what justice demands,” said Gary Solis, a retired and now an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University. “An innocent Iraqi male was taken prisoner by Hutchins and his squad and, while he was bound, repeatedly shot in the face (and) murdered.”
Christopher Oprison, a former and Hutchins’ defense attorney, said he believes the Corps is pursuing Hutchins’ case for political purposes.
The case “is an indictment of the entire justice system,” Oprison said. Comments made by Secretary Ray Mabus in 2009 alleging guilt have tainted the case and prevented Hutchins from getting a fair trial, he said.
“The political pressure to make an example out of Sgt. Hutchins is palpable,” Oprison said. “Enough is enough. The gloves are off. We hope to have Sgt. Hutchins home with his wife and children on Father’s Day — a free man.”
prosecutors would not comment.
Per rules, the jury will include and enlisted. Most if not all have served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan or both. The maximum sentence is roughly four years, the remainder of the 11-year sentence. The jury could also sentence Hutchins to time served, allowing him to immediately leave the Corps. He has had job offers.
After a verdict, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., who commands the U.S. Forces Central Command, can dismiss a guilty verdict or reduce a sentence. He cannot mandate a guilty verdict or increase a sentence.
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