[JURIST] US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III appeared in military court Monday to contest charges of kidnapping and murdering an Iraqi civilian in April. Hutchins was the leader of an eight-man squad in Hamdania [JURIST news archive] that allegedly took Hashim Ibrahim Awad [Wikipedia backgrounder] from his home and shot him without provocation. A total of eight US military personnel were initially charged [JURIST report] in the incident, in which they are said to have shot Awad and then made it seem that he was an insurgent planting a roadside bomb by placing a shovel and rifle next to his dead body. According to one of Hutchins' squad members, the men were searching for an alleged terror suspect who lived next door to Awad. When Hutchins became frustrated with the search, he randomly selected Awad and executed him.
A military judge is reviewing unspecified documentary evidence and testimony of Hutchins' squad members to determine if he will order a general court-martial [UCMJ text]. A Navy medic, Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, one of the members of Hutchins' squad, agreed to a plea bargain [JURIST report] last week in which he agreed to testify at his own court-martial as well as other proceedings about what he witnessed in Iraq in return for a 12-month prison sentence. Hutchins is the seventh Marine to face an Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] in connection with the incident. Hutchins is also being investigated for assault against three Iraqi civilians. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.