U.S. Marine found guilty at retrial in 2006 murder of Iraqi civilian

Marine Corps Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins, right, is escorted into his preliminary hearing by his civilian defense counsel J. Richardson Brannon. (File: AP)

A U.S. Marine was found guilty on Wednesday of murder in the 2006 slaying of a disabled Iraqi civilian, a killing prosecutors have described as motivated by a desire to send a message to a resistant Iraqi village, a Marine Corps official said.

The case against Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins III touched off a furor in the United States and Iraq after it came to light.

Hutchins was initially convicted of murder, larceny and making false statements over the killing of the civilian, a disabled former Iraqi police officer. But his initial conviction was later overturned.

The Marine Corps official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said Hutchins was convicted again on Wednesday on three out of four counts, including murder.

The Los Angeles Times, reporting from Camp Pendleton in Southern California where the retrial was held, said Hutchins was convicted of killing the man as well as conspiracy and larceny, but was acquitted of making a false report over the incident.

Prosecutors have said Hutchins led a squad of Marines who planned a mission aimed at stopping militants’ use of improvised bombs in the Iraqi village of Hamdania in the early morning of April 26, 2006.

When they could not find the suspected bomber, they went to a nearby house and took a disabled former police officer who was not a suspect, witnesses said in Hutchins’ previous trial.

Hutchins and other Marines shot 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a father of 11 and grandfather of four, and placed an AK-47 and a shovel next to the corpse to suggest he had been planting a bomb, the witnesses said.

An attorney for Hutchins could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hutchins was initially convicted in 2007 over the killing, but a military court overturned his conviction in 2010, finding a statement he gave while in custody should have been ruled inadmissible.

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

Hutchins faces a possible sentence of more than four years behind bars when a jury composed of six Marines reconvenes on Thursday to deliberate over punishment, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45