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US Navy to appeal acquittal of Marine for Iraqi civilian killing

The US Navy [official website] announced Monday that it will appeal an appeals court ruling overturning the conviction of US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III [JURIST news archive]. Hutchins, who was convicted in 2007 [JURIST report] for the 2006 kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive], remains in the brig [LAT report] at Camp Pendleton while the Navy appeals to the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces [official websites]. Hutchins's defense attorney Marine Capt. Babu Kaza has described the appeal as without merit, and has called it politically motivated. The appeal comes despite a recommendation to the contrary [AP report] by a legal adviser that it would not likely yield a different result. Prosecutors have 30 days to submit briefs supporting the appeal, and oral arguments are expected to take place in September. If the appeal fails, the case would be returned to Camp Pendleton where a general will decide whether to retry the case.

In April, a military appeals court reversed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] Hutchins's conviction, 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 made it possible for Hutchins to be restored to his prior rank, which was reduced to private following his conviction. Hutchins was serving an 11-year sentence, reduced from 15 years [JURIST report]. He was convicted in 2007 of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement, and larceny. Six Marines pleaded 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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