CAMP PENDLETON, California (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine facing a second-court martial in the 2006 death of an Iraqi civilian was ordered on Thursday to stand trial in August, and said afterwards that he was eager to put his legal troubles behind him.
Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins III was formally advised of the charges against him during a hearing at the Camp Pendleton Marine Base in California, but did not enter a plea as he seeks to have a new defense team appointed.
A judge ordered him to stand trial beginning on August 18.
Hutchins, 29, told reporters following the hearing that he and his wife, Reyna, who is pregnant with the couple’s third child, “just want this to be over and behind us” after some eight years in court.
“I‘m trying to raise my kids. I‘m trying to be the best husband I can be and be the best father I can be,” he said. “For the last eight years my life I have not been in control. Since 2006, I have not been in charge of my life”
Hutchins was the leader of a squad of Marines who planned a mission aimed at stopping militants’ use of improvised explosive devices in the village of Hamdania, Iraq, in the early morning hours of April 26, 2006.
Witnesses said Hutchins and other Marines shot 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a father of 11 and grandfather of four, and placed an AK-47 and a shovel next to the corpse to suggest he had been planting a bomb.
When they couldn’t find the suspected bomber they had identified, witnesses claimed, they went to a nearby house and took a disabled former police officer who was not a suspect.
The case touched off a furor in both the United States and Iraq. U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus called the incident “cold-blooded murder.”
In 2007, a jury of Marines hearing the first court-martial at the Camp Pendleton base north of San Diego found Hutchins guilty of unpremeditated murder and other crimes. He was sentenced to 15 years in a military prison. That sentence was later reduced to 11 years.
A military court overturned his conviction in 2010 after finding that a statement he gave to U.S. Navy investigators while in custody should have been ruled inadmissible. The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces re-instated his conviction the following year but overturned it again in 2013.
Hutchins is charged in the retrial with murder, conspiracy, making false statements, obstruction of justice and larceny. If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of the four years remaining in the 11-year sentence.
Reporting by Marty Graham; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis