Military Law

Marine Gets 15 Years in Iraq Murder

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The claimed ringleader in an alleged conspiracy by eight U.S. soldiers to drag a civilian grandfather from his home in Iraq last year and murder him has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for the killing.

Marine Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, 23, would have received a mandatory life sentence under the initial charge of premeditated murder that he faced. However, jurors in the Camp Pendleton court-martial reduced the charge to unpremeditated murder, allowing the lighter sentence, according to the Associated Press.

Hutchins and seven other members of his patrol were reportedly frustrated by their failure to find an insurgent they were seeking in Hamdania near the controversial Abu Graib prison one night in April 2006, and took out that frustration by murdering an innocent bystander, according to media reports and trial testimony. They also allegedly tried to cover up the murder by attempting to set up the crime scene to falsely portray their victim as an apparent insurgent bomber.

Yesterday, Hutchins became the only member of the squad to be convicted of murder; five others pleaded to lesser crimes, and the two others who went to trial were convicted of lesser crimes. All eight were initially charged with murder and kidnapping. The name of their victim is not certain; however, he has previously been identified as Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52.

Hutchins’ lawyer, Richard Brannon, described him as an outstanding Marine and attributed the crime to “a failure of command,” implying that a platoon leader had sent them the wrong message by handling detainees roughly, reports Reuters. “They were under fire,” Brannon said. “It does impact you.”

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations apparently interviewed by AP before Hutchins was sentenced suggested that many Muslims may see the 15-year term as a relatively minor price to pay for murder.

“People around the world and people in Iraq will be monitoring these kinds of trials to see if what they regard as justice is being done,” said Ibrahim Hooper. “If there is a perception that our soldiers can commit these crimes and only get a slap on the wrist, that’s not going to send a very good message.”

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