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Murder conviction overturned for US marine

The U.S. military's highest court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces [official website], overturned the murder conviction of Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III. The Court's decision [opinion, PDF] was based on the claim that Sgt. Hutchins's constitutional rights were violated when he was held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer for seven days in 2006. Sgt. Hutchins has served half of an 11-year sentence for murder, conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement and larceny for his role in the April 2006 kidnapping and murder of Iraqi civilian Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania [JURIST news archive] in Al Anbar province. Although Sgt. Hutchins could be freed in several days, the Navy could order a new court martial or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case.

This decision marks the latest in a series of developments concerning Sgt. Hutchins. In 2012, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces decided to hear [JURIST report] Sgt. Hutchins' appeal. In 2010, a military judge ordered the release [JURIST report] of Sgt. Hutchins, two months after his conviction for killing an Iraqi citizen was reversed by the Navy-Marine Court for Criminal Appeals, citing lack of a fair trial. In 2008, the US military reduced the sentence [JURIST report] of Sgt. Hutchins to 11 years in detention and a rank reduction to Private before being dishonorably discharged. In 2007, a military judge sentenced Sgt. Hutchins [JURIST report] to 15 years in prison for his role in the commission of the 2006 kidnapping and murder.

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