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Marine to Be Retried for Iraq Murder
San Diego Union-Telegraph ^ | JAN. 27, 2014 | Gretel C. Kovach

Posted on 01/27/2014 8:06:02 PM PST by nickcarraway

Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins twice freed on appeal for Hamdaniya killing

A Camp Pendleton Marine freed on appeal after serving more than six years for the murder of an unarmed man in Hamdaniya, Iraq, during the height of the war will be retried in a military court.

Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III will be arraigned Wednesday at Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Forces Central Command said Monday.

During a subsequent court martial, whose date has not been set, Hutchins will face charges of murder, obstruction of justice, making false official statements and conspiracy to commit larceny.

During a subsequent court martial, whose date has not been set, Hutchins will face charges of murder, obstruction of justice, making false official statements and conspiracy to commit larceny.

The Hamdaniya killing had provoked outrage in the United States and Iraq, coming on the heels of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal involving Army military police, and the killing by a different group of Camp Pendleton Marines of 24 civilians in Haditha.

The fallout included a refusal by Iraqi officials to grant legal immunity to American forces and the collapse of negotiations over a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq.

After Hutchins’ 2007 conviction, his case was twice overturned on legal technicalities.

The commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Central Command moved for a retrial “due to the seriousness of the charges and the amount of evidence that had been compiled through investigations, to include sworn statements,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Central Command.


Hutchins, then 22, was squad leader in charge in 2006 when seven Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment plotted to capture and kill an insurgent leader.

The squad snatched a man from his bed, shot him in a ditch and planted an AK-47 rifle and shovel at the scene to make it appear he had been planting roadside bombs, according to court testimony.

Prosecutors said the squad grabbed another man at random, a man with no known ties to the insurgency, when they couldn’t find their original target.

Hutchins maintained that he thought they killed an insurgent leader. Either way, it was murder in the eyes of the court because their rules of engagement did not permit summary execution of an insurgent posing no immediate threat.

Hutchins was tried by general court-martial and convicted of unpremeditated murder.

He was serving an 11-year sentence but was released on appeal from prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in 2010. After eight months of freedom, he was sent to the brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Then Hutchins’ conviction and sentence were overturned by the military’s highest court on June 26, 2013, a stunning upset for a prominent Iraq war crimes case.

“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,” Hutchins said Monday.

His wife, Reyna, is pregnant with their third child, after Kylie, 9, and Aidan, 2. “The stress this case has brought upon her is tremendous,” including death threats from an al-Qaeda supporter, said Hutchins, who is originally from Plymouth, Mass.

“I will continue to hope and pray that this ordeal is over soon, and my family is spared any more harm,” he said.

Hutchins and his family have been living in Oceanside awaiting resolution of his case.

He has tried since his release in July “to be the perfect Marine,” he said. He went back to work at Camp Pendleton in charge of the Marksmanship Training Unit, but was reassigned two weeks ago when the Marine Corps decided to retry his case.

Hutchins’ attorney, Marine Capt. Eric Skoczenski, could not be reached Monday for comment. Maj. Babu Kaza, a Marine reservist currently assigned to active duty who represented Hutchins during his appeals, said he is not permitted to discuss the case.


Critics, including Iraqis, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and the late congressman and Marine veteran John Murtha, had publicly characterized the Hamdaniya killing as coldblooded murder.

Supporters sympathetic to the chaos and moral ambiguity of combat said the squad acted amid the “fog of war” and a raging insurgency inflicting high casualties on coalition forces.

Both sides agreed the government fumbled the case, either because Hutchins and the squad were charged in the first place or because Hutchins was twice freed because of legal irregularities.

Over the years as his convoluted legal saga unfolded, the issue of possible unlawful command influence and the improper dismissal of his lawyer had been raised.

Then last year, four of the five judges on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces agreed that Hutchins’ constitutional rights were violated because of circumstances surrounding a confession Hutchins gave a naval investigator in Iraq, after he had been held in a trailer at Camp Fallujah for a week without access to a lawyer.

Despite the legal challenges raised on appeal, the Marine Corps really “had no choice but to retry the case,” said Eugene Fidell, a former judge advocate in the coast guard who teaches military justice at Yale Law School.

“For the Marine Corps to have walked away from this case would have led to a firestorm of controversy. Not that the Marine Corps is gun-shy about controversy,” he added, but “it’s a serious case.”

The U.S. is reluctant to prosecute its troops for misconduct on the battlefield, Fidell said: “But we do it because we are committed to the rule of law. That’s the lesson of the last 500 years or so — that there is law on the battlefield. It is not a free-for-all or melee.”

The move for retrial surprised Gary Solis, a former Camp Pendleton Marine prosecutor and judge who teaches law of war at Georgetown University. Murder retrials are costly and difficult to prosecute, because of fading memories and scattered witnesses.

“I applaud the Marine Corps for having the viewpoint that they should not allow someone who has committed murder in their eyes on the battlefield to walk away. But it is going to be a tough case to prove, and an expensive one,” he said.

Don Greenlaw, an 85-year-old Marine combat veteran from Oceanside who has rallied for Hutchins and attended the court hearings for years, said higher ranking officers in the battalion should share the blame.

“They picked on that kid long enough. ... It’s all politics,” Greenlaw said. “Buck sergeants on their first tour do not think these things up by themselves. All these guys are doing is let him take the fall and it is not right.”

The squad accidentally grabbed the wrong guy, “They made a mistake, but it’s not worth seven years of his life (incarcerated.) In a combat situation it’s very easy to make a mistake,” said Greenlaw, who served one combat tour in Korea and two to Vietnam.

Legal precedents

The government could have petitioned the Supreme Court for a review of the military case, which would have been rare, or dropped the case.

The Navy Office of the Judge Advocate General and U.S. solicitor general initiated the Supreme Court appeals process but decided in November to return the case to the Marine Corps.

Arguing against Supreme Court review, Hutchins’ military appellate attorney told the solicitor general the decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to overturn the conviction “is well-supported, effectuates Fifth Amendment due process rights, and fosters public confidence in the military justice system.”

The others from the squad were convicted of lesser charges: Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, Cpl. Trent Thomas, Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Melson Bacos, Lance Cpl. Jerry Shumate Jr., Pfc. John Jodka and Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson.

None spent more than 18 months in jail.

During Hutchins’ 2007 trial, a jury of his military peers found him cold and remorseless. Hutchins got 15 years, later reduced.

Hutchins struck a different tone in a legal statement submitted in 2010. “I am forever diminished by the death and violence I witnessed in Iraq, and forever consumed with regret over what I brought about with my hands. … In causing the death of a potentially innocent Iraqi, I lowered myself and became that which I loathed most — a terrorist,” he wrote.


The outcome for a Marine squad leader at the heart of another major Iraq War murder case was far different.

Frank Wuterich, a Camp Pendleton Marine implicated in the deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005, was tried in 2012 and served no jail time. He left the military with a general discharge under honorable conditions.

After a roadside bomb attack on his convoy killed one Marine and injured two others, Wuterich ordered his men to “shoot first, ask questions later” as they searched nearby homes. Among the dead were several women, toddlers and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair.

After long maintaining his innocence, Wuterich pleaded guilty halfway through his court-martial to negligent dereliction of duty. At the time, he was facing charges of voluntary manslaughter, assault with a dangerous weapon and dereliction of duty.

He was among eight Marines charged in the slayings or a failure to properly investigate them. The others were cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Legal observers said similar cases in the military and civilian justice systems often have far different outcomes. Two factors that hobbled prosecution of the Wuterich case were the nearly seven-year delay before the case went to trial and the dearth of witness statements from fellow squadmates.

The Haditha and Hamdaniya cases, as well as incidents in recent years of Marines desecrating corpses, are linked in the public eye in a troubling series of examples of war zone indiscipline, Fidell said.

Regarding the decision to retry Hutchins for the Hamdaniya murder, “I think leaders of the Marine Corps have got to be aware that discipline is critical, and if this case is meritorious, it has to be pursued.”

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: hamdaniya; hutchins; military
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1 posted on 01/27/2014 8:06:02 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: blueyon; KitJ; T Minus Four; xzins; CMS; The Sailor; ab01; txradioguy; Jet Jaguar; Defender2; ...

Active Duty ping.

2 posted on 01/27/2014 8:08:04 PM PST by Jet Jaguar
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To: nickcarraway

Didn’t he do it right the 1st time?

3 posted on 01/27/2014 8:11:46 PM PST by Vendome (Don't take life so seriously-you won't live through it anyway-Enjoy Yourself ala Louis Prima)
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To: nickcarraway

Outrageous. I realize that the UMCJ is different than what we civilians go through but this was over ridden twice now due to ‘technicalities’ (bad behavior by prosecution). That should be enough. It should not be a matter of re trial until you get the answer you want.

Constitution? Constitution? We don’t need no dirty, stink in, Constitution/s

4 posted on 01/27/2014 8:12:51 PM PST by Nifster
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To: nickcarraway

I wish the Obama administration would persecute muslim terrorists here in the USA the way they are persecuting this marine.

But instead of persecuting and prosecuting muslim terrorists Obama hires them.

5 posted on 01/27/2014 8:27:15 PM PST by Iron Munro ("Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences." - Robert Louis Stevenson)
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To: Jet Jaguar

And yet the bastard, kalid sheik mohumbug still has not been tried and might never be. The jihadi major fron Fort Hood is still alive and well and enjoying all the amenities our military “justice” can give him.
This is a farce. This is betrayal. This is evil. And this is something we should be shouting from the rooftops.

6 posted on 01/27/2014 8:28:27 PM PST by MestaMachine (My caps work. You gotta earn them.)
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To: nickcarraway

Okay for Obama to massacre wedding parties with his drones, but they will prosecute this lowly soldier from hell and back and then back to hell again.

7 posted on 01/27/2014 8:28:46 PM PST by Arthurio
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To: MestaMachine; 444Flyer

Pure persecution of our Marines and appeasement to the Muslims. This trial and the persecution of the Haditha Marines should never have gone this far. As always with O and SecNAV MabASS I question the timing of all this. Why now? Don’t forget that the Govt never established the identity of the body found that night.

8 posted on 01/27/2014 8:37:55 PM PST by Saoirise (Keep Larry Hutchins Free - USMC)
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To: nickcarraway

And this isn’t double jeopardy because?

9 posted on 01/27/2014 8:41:42 PM PST by null and void (We need to shake this snowglobe up.)
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To: nickcarraway

The purging continues...

10 posted on 01/27/2014 8:44:35 PM PST by llevrok (Obama 2008 : "If you vote for me, you can keep your country")
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To: Iron Munro


11 posted on 01/27/2014 8:45:34 PM PST by Jane Long (While Marxists continue the fundamental transformation of the USA, progressive RINOs assist!)
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To: nickcarraway

“For the Marine Corps to have walked away from this case would have led to a firestorm of controversy.”

Nice to know they are doing it for only the right reasons./ Damned coward Generals. They are utterly unworthy of the men they lead.

12 posted on 01/27/2014 9:00:20 PM PST by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office.)
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To: DesertRhino

This is all coming down from on high. And I believe truly from on high, namely Obama and his henchmen (and women, namely Valerie Garrett).

13 posted on 01/27/2014 9:57:46 PM PST by flaglady47 (Proud Conservative Republican)
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To: null and void
Maybe I read this wrong, but isn't this triple jeopardy?
14 posted on 01/27/2014 10:18:59 PM PST by Antoninus II
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To: Saoirise

This isn’t justice. It’s cruel and unusual punishment.

15 posted on 01/27/2014 10:38:08 PM PST by 444Flyer (How long O LORD?)
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To: nickcarraway

How many times can they try him? Until they find him guilty???

16 posted on 01/27/2014 10:56:51 PM PST by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; me = independent conservative)
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To: nickcarraway

If at first you don’t convict, try, try again.

17 posted on 01/27/2014 11:48:04 PM PST by Slings and Arrows (You can't have Ingsoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: Iron Munro

If he would have converted to moHAMmadism they could have sent him to Gitmo and he would have been released to the Cayman Islands or some other such hell hole.

18 posted on 01/27/2014 11:50:56 PM PST by Eagles6 (Valley Forge Redux)
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To: nickcarraway

explains why Lone Survivor happened. Had they killed the civilian they would have been charged with murder.

19 posted on 01/28/2014 12:25:35 AM PST by RginTN
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To: nickcarraway
FTA: "The U.S. is reluctant to prosecute its troops for misconduct on the battlefield..."

Not recently it expense or effort has been spared to persecute servicemembers such as this, while vermin like the Ft. Hood shooter took years and it was considered "workplace violence".

Hey kids, do you know what's different about these two examples?

20 posted on 01/28/2014 5:14:14 AM PST by SZonian (Throwing our allegiances to political parties in the long run gave away our liberty.)
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