[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces [official website] on Monday decided to hear the appeal of a former US Marine convicted of the 2006 murder of an Iraqi policeman. The court approved a review in the case of Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III on a petition claiming that Hutchins' constitutional rights were violated when he was held for seven days in solitary confinement without access to an attorney [AP report]. The court will also determine whether Hutchins' rights were encroached upon when he was interrogated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service even after Hutchins had invoked his right to counsel. The petition also claims that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus unlawfully influenced the case post-conviction. Hutchins was convicted in 2007 [JURIST report] of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement and larceny for his role in the April 2006 kidnapping and murder of Iraqi civilian Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania [USMC materials; JURIST news archive] in Al Anbar province. Hutchins was originally sentenced to 15 years in prison [JURIST report], but the sentence was afterward reduced to 11 years. He has served five years to date.
A military judge ordered Hutchins' release in 2010, two months after his conviction was reversed [JURIST reports] by the Navy-Marine Court for Criminal Appeals [official website], which cited lack of a fair trial. In addition to Hutchins' original conviction, six Marines pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to charges related to their roles in the incident, in which Awad was removed from his residence and killed, then arranged with a shovel and firearm to appear as if he were planting an improvised explosive device. The murder trial of another US Marine began in January in the Western Judicial Military Circuit Court at Camp Pendleton [official website], in which a US Marine squad leader was charged with having been responsible for the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in November 2005. Such investigations are not limited to the Iraq conflict, as in May 2010 when the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] announced an investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that a "small number" of soldiers are responsible for the unlawful deaths of three civilians in Afghanistan war [JURIST news archive].