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Marine from Camp Pendleton to be freed in killing of Iraqi

Marine Sgt. Larry Hutchins, imprisoned for six years for his role in killing an unarmed Iraqi n 2006, is set to be released from the brig Friday.
(Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)

A Marine from Camp Pendleton is set to be released Friday from the brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego after serving six years behind bars for killing an unarmed Iraqi in 2006, the Marine’s attorney said Thursday night.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces turned down a request from prosecutors to overturn its earlier ruling that had tossed out Sgt. Larry Hutchins’ conviction on grounds that he was improperly denied an lawyer when investigators began to question him.

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The government could still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to have Hutchins’ conviction reinstated. The Marine Forces Central Command could also seek to retry Hutchins in a court martial.

Hutchins, once released, will be reassigned to Camp Pendleton, said his attorney, Babu Kaza. Hutchins’ wife and two children live in Oceanside.

He has served six years of an 11-year sentence for unpremeditated murder, first at the prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., and then at the brig at Miramar.

Seven enlisted Marines and one Navy corpsman from Camp Pendleton were convicted at court-martial in the killing that occurred in Hamandiya, west of Baghdad. As the squad leader, Hutchins received the longest sentence. All of the others are now freed; none served more than 18 months.

The plan to drag an unarmed Iraqi from his home at night and kill him was developed as a warning to other Iraqis not to attack Marines with sniper shots or buried roadside bombs. In the months after the killing of the 52-year-old retired Iraqi police officer, attacks on Marines in the region dropped.

The Hutchins case has been closely watched by former Marines, including Bing West, former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, author of books about Marines in combt in Iraq and Afghanistan.

West has urged the military to drop the case and let Hutchins go free.

“In Iraq, Sgt. Hutchins faced a morally agonizing choice after a fellow Marine was killed by an unidentified bomber,” West said. “He and his squad struck back blindly. For that wrongful act, he has spent seven years in the brig.

“To subject him and his family to yet one more trial would be cruelty without reason. Enough is enough. Military justice has worked.”

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tony.perry@latimes.com


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