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US military appeals court overturns Marine's conviction for Iraqi civilian killing

[JURIST] A military appeals court on Thursday reversed [opinion, PDF] the conviction of US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III for the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian, citing lack of a fair trial. In an 8-1 decision, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] ruled that the departure of one of Hutchins's primary attorneys shortly before the court-martial [JURIST news archive] began resulted in an unfair trial. The ruling makes it possible that Hutchins may be restored [AP report] to his prior rank, which was reduced to private following his conviction. The Navy JAG Corps [official website] may appeal the decision within 30 days.

Hutchins was serving an 11-year sentence, reduced from 15 years [JURIST report], for his role in the April 2006 kidnapping and murder of Iraqi civilian Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania [USMC materials; JURIST news archive]. He was convicted [JURIST report] in 2007 of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement, and larceny. Six Marines pled guilty [JURIST report] to charges related to their roles in the incident, which involved Awad being removed from his residence and killed, then arranged with a shovel and firearm to appear as if he were planting an improvised explosive device.

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