A Marine sergeant accused of killing an unarmed Iraqi man in a major war crimes case will return to his Camp Pendleton unit now that he has been released from a military jail, according to Marine Corps officials.
Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III walked out of the brig at Camp Pendleton on Monday after a military judge determined he is not a flight risk while his case is being appealed.
Hutchins' murder conviction was overturned in April by a military appeals court in Washington, D.C. A military judge ruled that his 2007 trial was unfair, but the Navy is appealing the ruling and prosecutors wanted to keep Hutchins in confinement during that process.
Thad Coakley, a former Marine Corps judge advocate, predicted the government's appeal.
"When you have a serious allegation that at least was substantiated at one point that this squad leader of Marines and a Navy corpsman kidnapped and executed an Iraqi detainee -- which is essentially murder -- if you don't pursue that, how do you show that you're holding Marines to a standard of accountability?" Coakley said.
The case is now in the hands of a higher court, which can affirm or reverse the April ruling. That decision may not come until early next year.