Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Sergeant found guilty of murder

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , CAMP PENDLETON, CALIFORNIA

A Marine Corps squad leader was found guilty on Thursday of killing an Iraqi man whom he and several other service members abducted last year while searching for an insurgent leader who lived nearby.

The Marine, Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins III, was convicted by a military jury at Camp Pendleton, California, of unpremeditated murder, larceny and making a false official statement in the man's death in April of last year near Hamdania, Iraq. The jury found Hutchins not guilty of kidnapping, assault, housebreaking and obstruction of justice.

On Wednesday, another military jury convicted Corporal Marshall Magincalda of conspiracy to murder, larceny and housebreaking in the same case. But that jury acquitted Magincalda of premeditated murder and kidnapping; jury members have not yet imposed a sentence.

Hutchins, 23, of Plymouth, Massachusetts, had been charged with premeditated murder, but the jury hearing his case, all fellow Marines who have served in Iraq, declined to convict him on that charge. Under military law, a premeditated murder conviction requires a jury to impose a sentence of life in prison, either with or without possibility of parole; unpremeditated murder allows the jury to impose any punishment except the death penalty.

Hutchins is the fifth member of his eight-man squad to be convicted of crimes in connection with the killing of the Iraqi man, Hashim Ibrahim Awad. Four lower-ranking Marines and a Navy corpsman pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for their testimony against the other squad members; they received sentences ranging from one to eight years in prison.

During his court-martial, Hutchins' civilian lawyer, Richardson Brannon, argued that his client's actions were the result of his commanders' poor leadership and of what the lawyers said was the commanders' tacit approval of using violence in capturing and interrogating people suspected of being insurgents.

Brannon did not respond to phone and e-mail messages late on Thursday.

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