Delahunt calls Marine convicted of killing Iraqi man a casualty of the war
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt called Lawrence Hutchins a victim of the Iraq war, saying the Plymouth Marine’s conviction for killing an Iraqi man should have been on a charge of manslaughter not murder.
“This kid is a casualty of the war, a war that never should have been authorized. And it’s painful,” Delahunt said Monday at a Patriot Ledger editorial board meeting.
“He’s a good and decent kid. And now his life has been impacted forever,” added the Quincy Democrat. Delahunt has been a steadfast opponent of the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq.
Last year, a military jury convicted Hutchins, a 2002 Plymouth South High School graduate, of unpremeditated murder for his role in the abduction and killing of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, in the rural Iraqi village of Hamdania on April 26, 2006.
Hutchins, 24, then a sergeant and leader of an eight-man squad involved in the killing, was also found guilty of larceny and making a false statement.
He was originally sentenced to 15 years in prison, but his sentence was reduced to 11 years recently by Lt. Gen. Samuel T. Helland, Hutchins’ commanding general.
Seven Marines and a Navy corpsman pleaded guilty or were convicted in the case. All but Hutchins are now free.
“There can’t be such a significant disparity that puts someone in for 11 years, and all of the other seven out on the street,” Delahunt said.
Delahunt referred to a written psychiatric evaluation of Hutchins. While Delahunt said he could not release the evaluation without permission from Hutchins or his family, he said anyone who reads it would better understand what Hutchins or any other soldier in Iraq goes through, and why they sometimes take the actions they do.
“Nobody going into this type of situation is going to come back the same,” Delahunt said. “We have created casualties that are yet unforeseen.”
Delahunt and his staff attorney, John Kivlan, both emphasized that they believe military justice has too many gray areas, and that Hutchins received too harsh a sentence.
“I think what would be fair is to be reduced to manslaughter, and compare the sanctions to what others in similar situations have had,” Delahunt said.
They noted that in the Vietnam War, there were 27 cases of Marines convicted in the murder of Vietnamese non-combatants, and that only two of the courts-martial sentences exceeded 10 years.
Military guidelines in conviction and sentencing for similar crimes were unclear in the Vietnam era, and remain unclear today, Delahunt and Kivlan said.
Members of Hutchins’ unit testified that Hutchins hatched the plot to kill Awad and cover it up by making it look like the Iraqi was preparing to bury a roadside bomb. Squad members testified that Hutchins shot Awad in the head.
Kivlan and Delahunt did not dispute that there was an unlawful, unjustified killing.
“But is it a murder? Or is it a manslaughter?” said Kivlan, a former Marine who was Norfolk County first assistant district attorney under then-District Attorney Delahunt.
“We’re not talking about something that happened in Cohasset. We’re talking about something that happened in a combat environment, in a combat zone, that arose out of a combat operation,” said Kivlan, who sat in on Hutchins’ trial at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Delahunt said that he has begun the process of appealing to Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter.
While Winter could decide to shave more time off Hutchins’ sentence, Delahunt said, the only person who has the power to pardon him is President Bush.
Delahunt said that, so far, there have been no pardon-related initiatives made on Hutchins’ behalf.
Don Conkey may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.