The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Appeals overturned the murder conviction of Sgt. Larry Hutchins, the only member of the “Pendelton 8” sentenced to a long prison term after most of his codefendants accepted plea deals.
Hutchins, 26, was told of the court decision during a telephone call from his attorney, Marine Capt. S. Babu Kaza. “He is pretty happy,” Kaza said. “He was surprised to get good news because it’s really the first time it’s happened since he got put in confinement.”
Captain Kaza who served in Iraq, is my nephew and the grandson-by-marriage of Mario and Raquel Suarez, two long-time Sutton Manor residents. He is a regular visitor to New Rochelle.
Hutchins was a squad leader in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Iraq. Prosecutors alleged that Hutchins led six other Marines and a Navy medical corpsman on an unauthorized mission in Hamdania to capture and kill a suspected Iraqi insurgent. Hutchins was the primary target of military prosecutors.
According to the L.A. Times:
Hutchins’ lawyer, Marine Capt. Babu Kaza, argues that Hutchins’ crimes were the result of a “failed command” structure that seemed to endorse unauthorized killings. In a letter to the board, Hutchins says he now knows that his actions were wrong. But he asked the five board members to remember the situation in Hamandiya in 2006: Roadside bombs were killing and maiming Marines, and the porous Iraqi criminal justice system could not find and convict those responsible.
“It is difficult to recreate the mindset I had when I was in Iraq,” Hutchins wrote. “My desire to bring my Marines home alive outweighed my moral high ground and I believed if (suspected insurgent) Saleh Gowad was not eliminated, I’d be zipping up the body bags of my men or coming home in one myself.”