Oct 30, 2014 3:59 AM

Marine recharged in Iraq war case back in court

The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) The Marine Corps should not be retrying a Marine sergeant whose murder conviction in a major Iraq war crime case was overturned by the military's highest court after he served half of his 11-year sentence, his defense attorneys say.

Civilian defense attorney Chris Oprison said he has filed nine motions that he will present during a two-day hearing for Lawrence Hutchins III that starts Thursday at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, north of San Diego.

"We think all these charges should be dismissed," Oprison said. "What are they trying to get out of this Marine? He served seven years locked up, away from his wife and family. Why are they putting him through this again after he served that much time?"

The military prosecution declined to comment.

The Marine Corps ordered a retrial for Hutchins last year shortly after the ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that found his rights were violated by interrogators in 2006 when he was detained in Iraq and held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer for a week.

The new defense team is asking the judge to let them go to Iraq to interview witnesses in the village of Hamdania, where 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. Hutchins has said he thought the man was an insurgent.

Before his release, the Marine, from Plymouth, Mass., had served seven years in the brig for one of the biggest war crime cases against U.S. troops to emerge from the war. None of the other seven squad members served more than 18 months.

The military last summer recharged Hutchins. Among the charges is conspiracy to commit murder, which Oprison said is double jeopardy. Hutchins was convicted of murder at his original trial and acquitted of murder with premeditation.

Hutchins' defense attorneys also say the military compromised his case when its investigators raided defense attorneys' offices at Camp Pendleton in May. Oprison said investigators rifled through privileged files that held "the crown jewels" of Hutchins' defense case.

A Marine Corps review of the unusual search, which was prompted by an unrelated case, found that the raid did not compromise cases in the defense offices. But a military judge decided the search constituted "apparent unlawful command influence," meaning an observer would have reason to believe the government had unfairly interfered with the legal process.

Hutchins' case has been through a series of twists. A lower military court in 2010 first overturned his conviction, saying he was not given a fair trial because his lead military defense attorney retired shortly before the trial. The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces disagreed with the lower court and reinstated the conviction in 2011, only to later overturn it in 2013 after ruling his rights were violated during the interrogation.


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