A US Marine prosecuted for murder, may soon be free
“The rules of engagement may not always apply in Iraq. It’s not a black-and-white situation, not a conventional type warfare.” Major Zaher Bouza, witness for the defense
One of the military’s longest running cases
Lawrence Hutchins, 31, is a US Marine convicted of unpremeditated murder in the killing of an Iraqi policeman in the Iraqi village of Hamdania in 2006. He was first convicted in 2007, but an appeals court overturned his conviction in 2013 for legal errors and sent it back to Camp Pendleton for retrial. Nine years from the date of the death of the Iraqi, he was convicted again.
This time he has hope of getting out from under the weight of the trials- the jury voted not to give him any more jail time.
The media used words like the “mastermind” of the murder. Incendiary words, words that made him out to be a monster.
The Marine Corps Times wrote:
The former squad leader told the jury of three enlisted men and three officers Thursday that he acted illegally and made “the wrong choice.” He said he hoped the person he killed would be proud of the man he has become.
Giving unsworn testimony under gentle questioning by one of his attorneys, Hutchins recalled an atmosphere of frustration and steely determination to gain an upper hand in Hamdania in 2006. Shortly before the killing, a local rebel leader was freed by U.S. forces and word filtered to Hutchins that the rebel was taunting the Marines.
“I was a different person. I had ice in my veins. I cannot stress that enough,” said Hutchins, who followed his father and grandfather into the Marines the day after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in 2001, when he was a high school senior.
When will the ordeal be over for Hutchins?
Hutchins has been in and out of the brig for years, wondering and waiting, not knowing whether he would face even more prison time.
Prosecutors claimed that Hutchins planted an AK47 on the Iraqi, cuffed him with zipties, and marched him out of his home to his death. Only one of his former squad would testify against him at the retrial- many others recanted their testimony from the first one.
In his closing arguments the prosecutor insisted it was not about second guessing a Marine during war time.
“The reality is you have to adapt to the enemy to survive. After the killing, attacks against Marines declined. Everything was really quiet, the Marines credited Hutchins, the squad leader.” Staff Sergeant Saul Lopez, defense witness
The jury in this case was made up of military men who had been in combat- they knew about it, they understood it. They decided he should not spend any more time in jail, that he had paid his debt to society. They also recommended a “Bad Conduct” discharge, and Hutchins’ rank reduced to private.
The convening authority, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., can accept, reject or modify their sentencing decision, so whether or not Hutchins will be truly free is unknown.
The other members of his squad, 6 Marines and a Navy Corpsman, all served less than 18 months.
It was said the testimony of Hutchins’ young daughter requesting her father’s release might have helped sway the jury. Her dad may indeed soon come home.