LAWFUEL – Law Newswire – A US Marine squad leader who told his men “We just got away with murder” after they kidnapped and killed an Iraqi grandfather in Iraq last year has been found guilty of murder.
A military jury in a Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base courtroom, north of San Diego, found Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins III committed unpremeditated murder and larceny, made false official statements and participated in conspiracy to murder and commit other crimes in the killing.
He was found not guilty of charges of kidnapping, assault and housebreaking.
Witnesses said Hutchins led the unit in planning to kidnap and kill a terror suspect in the middle of the night. But when the unit could not find the suspect, they randomly killed Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, a father of 11 and grandfather of four who lived next door.
After Hutchins shot the man in the head, the squad then set a stolen AK-47 and shovel next to the corpse to suggest he was an insurgent planting a roadside bomb.
In an earlier trial, Petty Officer Melson Bacos said Hutchins’ anger over the release of a suspected “terrorist” from Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison prompted the murder of the man’s neighbour.
“He was just mad that they kept letting him go when he was a known terrorist, sir,” PO Bacos said.
The prosecutor in the case, Lieutentant Colonel John Baker, said in closing arguments that Hutchins masterminded “a cold and calculated plan … to take the law into his own hands”.
Hutchins is one of seven US Marines and one US sailor with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, charged in the April 26, 2006, killing of the Iraqi in Hamdania.
Five members of the squad, including the navy medic, pled guilty to lesser charges in connection with the shooting.