A San Diego marine sentenced to 11 years in prison in one of the biggest crime cases from the Iraq war was officially released from military prison Friday evening.
Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III was freed from the Miramar Brig and reunited with his wife and children, his attorney Babu Kaza confirmed.
Following his release, Hutchins checked into the Headquarters and Support Battalion at Camp Pendleton. He was picked up by his wife, Reyna, and their two children.
Via his attorney, Sgt. Hutchins had this to say about his homecoming on Friday:
“The emotions I am feeling right now are hard to describe. I am overcome. This is all I ever wanted.”
“There is a family in Iraq right now that does not have a father or a husband home with them and I have never forgotten. It has always been my sincere hope that if that man were to see me today, he could at least be proud with the man this whole experience has turned me into,” he continued.
“I am afraid that any future retrial will be tainted with the unlawful command influence that was a result of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus' comments back in 2009.”
Hutchins led an eight-man squad accused of kidnapping and killing a retired Iraqi policeman from his home in April 2006. Hutchins and his squad were accused of marching the man into a ditch and fatally shooting him in Hamdania, and then staging the body to look like the man had been planting bombs.
In all the years of fighting this case, Hutchins has been incarcerated, granted clemency, denied it by the Navy secretary, released for eight months and taken back to the Miramar Brig, where he has spent most of his time behind bars.
On Jun. 26, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces overturned Hutchins’ murder conviction and announced he would soon be released from prison.
The military Court of Appeals said Hutchins’ constitutional rights had been violated at the time of his arrest when Hutchins was held in a trailer for a week without legal representation. A confession he made during that time ultimately led to his conviction.
On Friday, after nearly seven years in prison, Hutchins was finally able to return home to his family.
NBC 7 spoke exclusively with Hutchins’ father, Lawrence Hutchins Sr., from his Massachusetts home by phone following the marine's release.
“This was an up-and-down rollercoaster, all in a matter of 10 hours. It was like, holy mackerel, unbelievable. Its’ overwhelming,” said the marine’s father.
NBC 7 also spoke with a friend of Hutchins, former marine Roger Herman, who said Hutchins does have regrets over what led to his time behind bars.
“I can’t tell you exactly what happened; I mean that’s between him and his God. But, I know he’s very remorseful of the fact that he took another life. Even when you kill an enemy in combat, I mean you feel very bad about it, and he’s remorseful,” said Herman.
While Hutchins is now a free man, his legal woes may not be over. Now, the Navy must decide if they will appeal to the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, Hutchins will be reporting to the unit he just checked into at Camp Pendleton.