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Marine Corps to retry sergeant in Iraq war case

Jan. 27, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
The Marine Corps will retry Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins, whose murder conviction from the Iraq war has been overturned twice by military courts.
The Marine Corps will retry Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins, whose murder conviction from the Iraq war has been overturned twice by military courts. (Chris Carlson / AP)
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SAN DIEGO — The Marine Corps announced Monday that it will retry a sergeant whose murder conviction in a major Iraq war crime case has been overturned twice by military courts in recent years.

Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel said the military branch had determined that the seriousness of the crime warranted a retrial of the case of Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III, who led an eight-man squad accused of kidnapping a retired Iraqi policeman and killing him in the village of Hamdania in 2006.

Hutchins expressed disbelief and called the latest development “devastating.”

“There is nothing that I want more than for this whole situation to be over... to be able to move on and begin a life with my family away from all of this,” he wrote in an emailed statement. “But even though it has been nearly eight years, it looks like that will not be possible.”

The military’s highest court overturned his murder conviction and ordered Hutchins released from the brig last summer after ruling there were errors in his case. The sergeant had served more than half of his 11-year sentence.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces supported 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.

Prosecutors said Hutchins waived his right to counsel at the time and willfully told his side of the story without coercion.

The case was overturned the first time by a lower court about four years ago only to be reinstated in 2011 by the highest court that agreed with his petition in 2013. At that time, Hutchins was released for less than a year.

Hutchins has said he thought the man — who turned out to be a retired policeman — was an insurgent leader. Prosecutors accused the squad of planting a shovel and AK-47 to make it appear he was an insurgent.

The six other Marines and a Navy corpsman in his squad served less than 18 months locked up.

Hutchins said his wife, Reyna, is pregnant with their third child. He will be arraigned Wednesday, Kloppel said.

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