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US marine released following overturned murder conviction

The US Marine Corps [official website] on Friday released Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III after the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces [official website] overturned [opinion, PDF] his murder conviction. In the June 26 decision, the court reversed [JURIST report] the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) [official website] decision [opinion, PDF] holding that while the attorney-client relationship had been improperly severed, Hutchins was not prejudiced. In reversing the CCA decision, the court also held that the Naval Criminal Investigative Services's (NCIS) [official website] request to Hutchins for his consent to search his belongings was in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. The ruling set aside the findings and the sentence, and remanded the case to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Under the military justice system, Hutchins could not be freed until the court ruled on a Navy motion in response to the court's decision. 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.

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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