LOS ANGELES - The highest US military appeals court on Wednesday overturned the murder conviction of a Marine sergeant found guilty in 2007 of leading a squad in Iraq that was accused of killing a civilian they had captured, bound and gagged.
Three judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces found Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins gave a statement to a US Navy investigator while in custody that should have been ruled inadmissible and tainted his court-martial.
The case stems from the 2006 death in Hamdania, Iraq, of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, a father of 11 and grandfather of four.
In 2007, a court-martial at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base north of San Diego sentenced Hutchins to 15 years in military prison after finding him guilty of unpremeditated murder, larceny and other crimes.
Hutchins was the leader of a squad that went on a mission aimed at stopping militants' use of improvised explosive devices. Witnesses had testified that Hutchins and another Marine shot Awad and placed an AK-47 and a shovel next to the corpse to suggest he had been planting a bomb.