Author:
Ed Brown

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On March 12, 2013
Last modified:December 15, 2014

Summary:

Hutchins was tried for war crimes and served 7 years in prison before the court realized his constitutional rights had been violated during the original trial. Now, the court is retrying this man for the same charge - military investigators are kicking in attorney's doors and rifling through sensitive paperwork and Hutchins has called foul. Who could blame him? This case wreaks of military injustice at it's worst.

⇓Jump to Updates⇓

Plymouth, Massachusetts, native,  SGT Lawrence Hutchins III, followed family tradition by enlisting in the Marine Corps on a delayed entry program shortly after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  Hutchins rose to the rank of Sergeant after completing numerous training and schooling programs.

SGT. Hutchins was deployed to Iraq. He was accused of being the ringleader of six fellow Marines and a Navy corpsman in a plot to  kidnap and kill a retired Iraqi policeman who they suspected of being an enemy insurgent.

Hashim Ibrahim Awad was killed in  the Iraqi village of Hamdania in 2006. The squad was accused of planting a shovel and a rifle near his body, to give the appearance he was digging a hole to plant a roadside bomb.

SGT. Hutchins said he was not with his squad at the time of the killing. He reported that his men told him they had killed an insurgent leader. It was only during the investigation that SGT. Hutchins learned the man was unarmed.

SGT. Hutchins was convicted of larceny, making a false official statement, and unpremeditated murder in August 2007.  He received a dishonorable discharge and was reduced in rank to private. Additionally, he was sentenced to 15 years which was later reduced to 11 years.

In April 2008, a military appeals court reversed his conviction citing an unfair trial. SGT. Hutchins was released, reinstated to his demoted rank, and went back to duty.

In 2010, the Navy appealed the reversal. Unbelievably, the conviction was reinstated. SGT. Hutchins was ordered back to prison to serve the remaining time on his sentence.

Out of the eight servicemen involved in the incident, Hutchins is the only one still incarcerated and the only one to have served more than 18 months. On February 17, 2011, SGT. Hutchins said good bye to his pregnant wife and their 6 year old daughter. He is currently incarcerated in the Brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

From SGT. Hutchins’ letter before returning to the Brig:

I never thought that this day would come, but in the end it did. I was as shocked as everyone to hear that not only was the mandate ordering me back into confinement issued today, but that the General formally denied my clemency alongside of it. Friday at noon I go willingly to turn myself over to the Military police and return to the Brig at Camp Pendleton. I am prepared because I am a Man made of what I believe to be both Honor and Integrity. These last 9 months have been a blessing to me. I have come to establish a relationship with my daughter that no General will ever be able to take away from me; a marriage with my wife so strong, that any bars on a prison cell fail in comparison. I know who I am and what I have accomplished despite all I faced getting out of prison and can say that I am damn proud of who I have become and what I have in a family.

According to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces page there is not a current hearing scheduled for SGT. Hutchins. This man served our country. He has a wife and two small children.

In a war with no clear objective for victory, a policy to appease the enemy, and draconian Rules of Engagement,  our soldiers are the real casualties. War is an ugly thing. Retired Marine First Sergeant, John Bernard writes in his article “After Double Minded Justice; Sgt Larry Hutchins Ordered Back to Prison:”

“Let us remember that our Warriors have been fighting an enemy that is hard to define, treacherous and motivated by an ideology that promotes, recommends and idealizes ritual murder. Let us also remember that this enemy does not wear a uniform and represents no flag, no nation, no people. They kill, maim and destroy to pacify their deity. Sgt Hutchins had already served four years for what will always remain questionable. Parsing acts of war and preservation from deliberate acts of murder on the battlefield is tricky at best. Charging him with murder, dragging him through the system, handing down an eleven year sentence, releasing him after four years due to inconsistencies in his defense and then sending him back to prison should be considered cruel and unusual punishment.”


UPDATE JULY 2013

Hutchins was freed from the Miramar Brig and reunited with his wife and two children after a Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that his constitutional rights had been violated at the time of his arrest. He is scheduled for retrial in August 2014.


UPDATE 8.18.2014

Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III walked into Camp Pendleton court with his wife Thursday August 14th for a pre-trial hearing armed with his new civilian defense attorney Chris Oprison.

Hutchins is once again charged with leading an eight-man squad that the military says kidnapped and killed a retired Iraqi policeman in April 2006. The sergeant was previously sentenced to 11 years in prison on the charges, but after spending seven years in the brig, the Marine Corps’ highest court reversed his conviction in June 2013 stating Hutchins’ constitutional rights had been violated after prosecutors used inadmissible evidence against him.

Oprison, a former Marine and military prosecutor based out of Washington, D.C., agreed to take on Hutchins’ case pro-bono:

“What this guy has been through after serving his country and what the Marine Corps is putting him through is pretty deplorable, that he was released from prison and they recharged him,” Oprison said. “His parents went through every bit of their life savings. He needed help.”

During the discovery, Oprison questioned military investigators who raided offices of defense counselors in May of this year – including one of Hutchins’ military attorneys at the time – raising concerns about a possible breach in the defense’s case if military investigators, during the raids, were privy to paperwork related to Hutchins’ case:

“What troubles me is that there was no controls over it,” Oprison said after the hearing. “Nobody sort of had the better sense to say, ‘You know what? We shouldn’t be looking through defense counsel offices; we shouldn’t be looking through files of high profile cases like Sgt. Hutchins and other cases,’ where it is eminently reasonable to assume you’re going to come across privileged and work product information.”

The investigators testified that they went through the offices to look for case files for a cell phone they believed contained evidence for another case. If convicted Hutchins will once again face 11 years in prison with credit for the seven years he’s already served.

Check back for updates.


This report is part of a new DCX series titled The Leavenworth 10 – Uncommon Injustice


The Leavenworth 10 Uncommon Injustice