Marine Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, the alleged ringleader of a plot to execute an Iraqi last year in Hamandiya, was convicted of murder Thursday but acquitted of a charge of premeditation that would have sent him to prison for life.
Hutchins, 23, of Plymouth, Mass., remained stoic, but his wife, Reyna, began crying as the verdict was read. He was found guilty of unpremeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, larceny and making false statements.
The jurors, all of whom are Iraq veterans, could sentence Hutchins to life in prison, impose a lighter term or even release him from the brig, where he was held for 14 months awaiting trial.
Hutchins, on his first tour in Iraq, persuaded an eight-man squad he led to kill an Iraqi civilian accused of being an insurgent, who was unarmed but had been repeatedly arrested and released, testimony showed. The April 26, 2006, killing was supposed to be a warning to other Iraqis not to attack Marines.
Two other Marines accused in the case, Cpl. Marshall Magincalda and Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, also were acquitted of premeditated murder in separate trials.
Thomas was convicted last month of conspiracy and kidnapping. His jury ordered a bad-conduct discharge but no jail sentence.
On Wednesday, a jury convicted Magincalda, 24, of house-breaking and conspiracy to commit murder. The jury will resume its deliberations on his possible penalty this morning.
Magincalda, of Manteca, Calif., was in Iraq for his third tour. He served during the 2004 fight in Fallouja and received the Purple Heart for the wounds he incurred there.
In an unsworn statement to jurors before they began deliberating his sentence, Magincalda, his voice breaking, apologized for his crimes and for letting down Marines under his command.
“I’d like to say that I am very sorry for the offenses I’ve done,” he said. “I’d also like to ask for your forgiveness. I would like to think I will go on to do good things in my life.”
Hutchins, in an unsworn statement, talked of the frustration of Marines trying to stop insurgent attacks.
“I participated in the events of 26 April out of a sense that it was part of our mission,” he said.
Hutchins’ wife begged jurors to let her husband come home to her and their daughter, 2-year-old Kylie, who sat on her grandfather’s lap in the courtroom.
“I gave him to the Marines, and now I want you to give him back to me,” Hutchins’ mother, Kathleen, tearfully told jurors.
The jury is set to begin its penalty deliberations this morning.
The Hutchins and Magincalda courts-martial should close the books on the Hamandiya killing. Four Marines and a Navy corpsman, initially charged with murder, pleaded guilty to reduced charges and were given sentences of 10 months to eight years.
The verdicts will be sent to Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, commanding general of the Marine Forces Central Command, who has the power to overturn guilty verdicts and reduce sentences.