Ex-Pendleton Marine freed after murder conviction overturned - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Ex-Pendleton Marine freed after murder conviction overturned

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former Camp Pendleton Marine whose murder conviction stemming from the killing of unarmed Iraqi man in 2006 was overturned last month was freed from the Miramar brig Friday after serving more than half of his 11-year sentence.

Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III was convicted in 2007 after being accused of being the mastermind of a plan to kidnap and kill a suspected insurgent, but grabbed another man instead when the suspected insurgent's family foiled the plot.

Hutchins, of Plymouth, Mass., was a squad leader of a unit conducting counter-insurgency operations.

He will now return to Camp Pendleton for a new assignment, according to published reports, which cited Marine Corps Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel.

On June 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces overturned Hutchins' conviction for unpremeditated murder on the grounds his Fifth Amendment rights were violated.

According to court documents, Hutchins was held in solitary confinement for seven days and denied the ability to communicate with a lawyer, after asking for one during an interrogation. His belongings were searched, and he later waived his rights and provided a confession, which the court contended was illegally obtained.

The court said a military judge erred when admitting the statement in a previous hearing.

On Thursday, the Court of Appeals denied prosecutors' request to reconsider its decision, paving the way for Hutchins release from custody.

Seven other Marines and a Navy corpsman were initially charged in the case, and none received sentences longer than 16 months.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier version, read below.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The military's highest court has denied a government request to reconsider the overturned murder conviction of a Marine who has served more than half of his 11-year sentence in one of the biggest war crime cases to emerge from the Iraq war.

The denial from the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces clears the way for the release of Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III of Plymouth, Mass. from the brig at California's Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Hutchins' military attorney Maj. Babu Kaza said Hutchins was expected to be released Friday and reassigned to Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, where he was previously stationed. He'll return to living in nearby Oceanside with his wife and two children, Kaza said.

The Navy can still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or retry Hutchins.

The appeals court overturned Hutchins' conviction on June 26, supporting his claims that his rights were violated when he was held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer for seven days during his 2006 interrogation in Iraq.

Prosecutors asked the court to reconsider, saying Hutchins waived his right to counsel at the time and willfully told his side of the story without coercion.

Hutchins said in a statement that the Navy's motion was "frivolous, and is solely designed to stall my imminent release."

"My family and I have been through so much," Hutchins said in the statement.

Under the military justice system, Hutchins had to remain in the brig until the court ruled on the motion. After its denial of the Navy's motion, the court issued a separate order mandating his release.

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 in the village of Hamdania.

Hutchins has said he thought the man — who turned out to be a retired policeman — was an insurgent leader.

None of the other seven squad members served more than 18 months.

The move is the latest in a series of twists for Hutchins, whose case was overturned once by a lower court three years ago only to be reinstated in 2011 by the same court that agreed with his latest petition.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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