US soldier who killed Iraqi man free to go home

Marine Corps officer sentenced to seven years already served after being found guilty in retrial of 2006 killing.

    US soldier who killed Iraqi man free to go home
    Hutchins led a squad of troops sent to Hamdania to combat fighters launching sniper attacks and planting IEDs [AP]

    A US soldier convicted of the 2006 murder of a former Iraqi police officer has been sentenced to time he had already served in confinement, in a decision by a military jury at Camp Pendleton in California.

    The jury also recommended that Marine Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins III receive a bad-conduct discharge from the Marine Corps on Thursday.

    He had served about seven years in confinement and had faced a possible sentence of four more years.

    The recommendation is not the final word. The trial's convening authority, Marine Corps Lieutenant-General Kenneth F McKenzie, can accept or reduce the sentence in the coming weeks.

    After the killing in Iraq came to light, Ray Mabus, then-US navy secretary, called it a "cold-blooded murder".

    On Wednesday, the military jury at the Southern California base found Hutchins guilty of murder, conspiracy and larceny but acquitted him of a charge of making false statements.

    The San Diego Union-Tribue newspaper reported that Hutchins was sent on Thursday to his home at Camp Pendleton, where he lives with his wife and three children.

    Christopher Oprison, the defence lawyer, said Hutchins' family welcomed the sentence.

    "I think they're ecstatic right now," he said.

    Convictions and appeals

    Hutchins was initially convicted in 2007 and sentenced to 11 years in military confinement, which including the seven years he served pending appeal, had left open the possibility of a four-year sentence.

    A military court overturned his conviction in 2010, finding a statement he gave in custody should have been ruled inadmissible.

    A military appeals court later reinstated the conviction, then overturned it again in 2013 because Hutchins was denied access to a lawyer for a week early in the investigation.

    Hutchins led a squad of soldiers sent to Hamdania, Iraq, to combat fighters launching sniper attacks and planting improvised explosive devices.

    On April 26, 2006, Hutchins led six Marines Corps soldiers and a navy corpsman in abducting 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a retired policeman.

    They killed him and placed an AK-47 and a shovel next to the corpse to suggest he had been planting a bomb, according to witness testimony.

    The seven other squad members were convicted of crimes at courts-martial, but none were imprisoned for more than 18 months.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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