CAMP PENDLETON- A Marine Corps non-commissioned officer facing a murder retrial in military court for the 2006 death of an unarmed civilian in Iraq was today granted a delay of his arraignment at Camp Pendleton to allow him to hire a different attorney.
Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, of Plymouth, Mass., sought the change due to an alleged conflict of interest on the part of the USMC captain representing him, and also raised a concern that the judge had ”undue command influence” to fairly preside in the case, said Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel, a Marine Corps spokesman.
The proceeding was rescheduled to Feb. 13.
The defendant allegedly led a plan to kidnap and kill suspected insurgent Saleh Gowad near Hamdania but targeted disabled 52-year-old war veteran Hashim Awad instead when Gowad’s family foiled the plan. At the time, Hutchins was squad leader of a unit conducting counterinsurgency operations.
The sergeant was found guilty of unpremeditated murder in 2007. Last June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces overturned the conviction on the grounds that Hutchins’ Fifth Amendment rights had been violated during the initial investigation.
He was freed from the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar brig a month later and returned to Camp Pendleton for a new assignment after serving more than half of his 11-year sentence.
According to court documents, Hutchins at one point was held in solitary confinement for seven days and denied the ability to communicate with a lawyer after he asked for one during an interrogation. He eventually waived his rights and gave a confession, but a court ruled that it had been illegally obtained.
Seven other Marines and a Navy corpsman also were charged in the case. None received a sentence longer than 16 months in connection with the killing.