Judge releases Marine in Iraqi war crimes case

A military judge has allowed a Marine sergeant convicted of murder in one of the biggest war crime cases to emerge from the Iraq war to walk free, nearly two months after a military appeals court ruled he had an unfair trial.

San Diego: A military judge has allowed a
Marine sergeant convicted of murder in one of the biggest war
crime cases to emerge from the Iraq war to walk free, nearly
two months after a military appeals court ruled he had an
unfair trial.

Yesterday`s surprise decision to release Sgt Lawrence
Hutchins deals another blow to the government`s prosecution of
US troops accused of killing unarmed Iraqis.
Attorneys for the government have said Hutchins led a
squad of seven troops who killed a 52-year-old man in the
Iraqi village of Hamdania in 2006, and then planted a shovel
and AK-47 to make it appear he was an insurgent.

"I`m going to be the best Marine I can be today," an
elated Hutchins told The Associated Press in a phone interview
after being released from the brig at Camp Pendleton.

"Today is really a surreal experience. I think we had a
good judge. ... It`s hard to describe exactly what I`m
feeling. I`m happy."
Hutchins had been serving an 11-year sentence. The others
in his squad served less than 18 months.

The US Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals in
Washington ruled in April that Hutchins was not given a fair
trial because his lead defence lawyer left the case shortly
before his 2007 trial. The ruling is being appealed by the
Navy.

PTI