Prosecutors seek more time to decide whether to appeal overturning of Marine's conviction
SAN DIEGO – SAN DIEGO (AP) — Prosecutors are seeking more time to decide whether to challenge the overturning of a Camp Pendleton Marine's murder conviction in one of the government's biggest Iraqi war crimes cases.
The Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps filed a request late Wednesday asking the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals to extend Monday's deadline until June 8.
The court last month dismissed the conviction, saying Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III was not given a fair trial. The ruling marked a major blow to the military's prosecution of U.S. troops accused of killing unarmed Iraqis.
Hutchins, 26, has spent nearly four years in prison. The others in his squad served less than 18 months.
Prosecutors said Hutchins led a squad of six Marines and a Navy corpsman who dragged a man from his home and killed him in the Iraqi village of Hamdania in 2006.
Hutchins said he was not with his squad at the time. He said they told him they had killed an insurgent leader, and he did not learn of the mistake until after the investigation.
Defense attorney Capt. Babu Kaza is seeking the release of Hutchins, who has been serving an 11-year sentence.
Kaza said his client is not a flight risk and could be freed this weekend from confinement at Camp Pendleton.
"Any more delay is unnecessary," Kaza said. "The law is squarely on our side."
In seeking the delay, the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps said it needed the time to coordinate with staff.
The court ruled Hutchins was denied a fair trial because a military judge allowed his lead defense attorney to be let go just three weeks before the 2007 court-martial.
The attorney was finishing his active duty, but the court ruled the judge should have considered denying his request given that he had worked on the case for three years and it was about to go to trial.
Col. Peter Collins, a senior legal adviser to the admiral who will make the final decision on the prosecution's next move, has recommended the government drop the case. Prosecuting attorneys want the government to appeal.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects to say deadline is Monday and requested extension date is June 8.)