Marine wants new charges in Iraq war crime tossed

Court Watch Posted on

The Marine Corps should not be retrying a sergeant whose murder conviction in a major Iraq war crime case was overturned by the military's highest court after he served half of his 11-year sentence, his defense attorneys say.

Civilian defense attorney Chris Oprison said he has filed nine motions that he will present during a two-day hearing for Lawrence Hutchins III that starts Thursday at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, north of San Diego.

"We think all these charges should be dismissed," Oprison said. "What are they trying to get out of this Marine? He served seven years locked up, away from his wife and family. Why are they putting him through this again after he served that much time?"

The military prosecution declined to comment.

The Marine Corps ordered a retrial for Hutchins last year shortly after the ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that found his rights were violated by interrogators in 2006 when he was detained in Iraq and held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer for a week.

The new defense team is asking the judge to let them go to Iraq to interview witnesses in the village of Hamdania, where 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. Hutchins has said he thought the man was an insurgent.

Before his release, the Marine, from Plymouth, Massachusetts, had served seven years in the brig for one of the biggest war crime cases against U.S. troops to emerge from the war. None of the other seven squad members served more than 18 months.

The military last summer re-charged Hutchins. Among the charges is conspiracy to commit murder, which Oprison said is double jeopardy. Hutchins was convicted of murder at his original trial and acquitted of murder with premeditation.

Hutchins' defense attorneys also say the military compromised his case when its investigators raided defense attorneys' offices at Camp Pendleton in May. Oprison said investigators rifled through privileged files that held "the crown jewels" of Hutchins' defense case.

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