Court questions overturning of Marine conviction

The military's highest court is questioning last year's ruling by an appeals court that threw out the murder conviction against a Camp Pendleton Marine in the killing of an unarmed Iraqi man.

In a ruling late Tuesday, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in Washington agreed there were errors at the trial of Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III but they may not have been enough to overturn his conviction.

Hutchins was released last June after the military appeals court ruled he had an unfair trial in 2007 because his lead defense attorney was let go three weeks before the start of his trial.

Tuesday's ruling opens the possibility that his conviction could be reinstated.

Hutchins spent four years in a military prison for the killing of a retired Iraqi policeman in 2006 in the village of Hamdania. Authorities say the 52-year-old man was dragged from his home and shot by Marines who then framed him as an insurgent.

Six other Marines and a Navy corpsman were convicted or pleaded guilty in the killing.

Hutchins' attorney, Capt. Babu Kaza, says the case against his client is without merit. He said he will file a motion asking the higher court to reconsider sending the case back to the lower court.

If the conviction is reinstated, Kaza said they will appeal.

Hutchins is currently stationed at Camp Pendleton, where he is not under any restrictions.

After Tuesday's ruling, Hutchins sent an e-mail to his family telling them about the decision and telling them he was hopeful still that his conviction will not be reinstated.

"I look at the last eight months as a blessing," he said in the e-mail, made public by his defense attorney.