A Marine accused of killing an Iraqi officer, facing war crimes charges for the second time, is seeking civilian counsel and raising objections to the judge overseeing his Camp Pendleton trial.
During a motions hearing Thursday, Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III told a new judge assigned to this case – Capt. Andrew Henderson – that he is trying to retain a civilian attorney but has not yet secured one.
Henderson took over the case since his predecessor, Col. Michael Richardson, will soon be retiring from the Navy.
Hutchins’ current defense team argued once again Thursday that a Navy judge may not be the best person to hear the case since he reports up the chain of command.
Henderson responded the worries are unfounded.
The defense attorneys also raised concerns about the military investigators’ raid of a defense council’s office at Camp Pendleton in early May, arguing that paperwork related to Hutchins’ case may have been unfairly obtained.
A Marine Corps review late last month had found the search did not compromise any case.
The developments come more than two months after Richardson ruled Hutchins’ military attorneys were not tainted because they worked for the Marine Corps, as the defendant had claimed.
Nevertheless, Hutchins plans to replace them with attorneys of his own choosing.
Hutchins’ next court appearance is slated for July 24, and if all goes as planned, his trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 18.
The sergeant is accused of leading an eight-person squad that killed a retired Iraqi policeman. After he was convicted of the crime in 2007, a judge overturned the ruling last year on the basis that Hutchins’ constitutional rights were violated.
If convicted again, Hutchins faces 11 years in prison, though he will get credit for the seven years he’s already served.