The Navy has denied parole for a Camp Pendleton Marine convicted of murder in a major Iraq war crime case, rejecting the request by his lawyer who had argued that he should be released because of an error at his 2007 trial.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Juan Garcia said in a statement Tuesday that parole at this time would be premature for 26-year-old Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III, who is set to be released in July 2015 at the earliest. Hutchins was convicted for leading an eight-man squad that kidnapped a 52-year-old Iraqi man from his home in Hamdania in 2006, marched him into a ditch and killed him.
Garcia said he thoroughly reviewed the case and commended Hutchins for his good behavior during his jail time, which he called "evidence of his rehabilitative desire."
"However, I find parole at this time is premature," he said. "The offenses for which Pvt. Hutchins was convicted require his continued confinement to ensure he is sufficiently punished and to deter others from similar conduct."
Hutchins, of Plymouth, Mass., has spent more than fours years in a military prison for the killing of a retired Iraqi policeman. Prosecutors say after the man was shot by Marines, the troops then tried to frame him as an insurgent.
The decision was the latest turn in the case. Hutchins was released last year after a military court threw out his conviction and ruled he had received an unfair trial because his previous lawyer left the case only weeks before the court-martial began.
The military's highest court disagreed and said the error was not serious enough to warrant a new trial. That court reinstated the conviction, and the Marine Corps sent Hutchins back to the brig in February to complete his 11-year sentence after he spent eight months working at Camp Pendleton at a desk job.
Hutchins had written a letter given to the Navy Clemency and Parole board in which he had said he was deeply sorry for what happened and has suffered nightmares and anxiety because of the death.
His lawyer, Babu Kaza, had argued that Hutchins was an outstanding Marine during his release and deserved to be freed. He also argued that Hutchins' family has suffered enough: Hutchins has a young daughter and a pregnant wife.
His wife, Reyna Hutchins, said that her family was devastated by the decision.
"I spoke with my husband shortly after he was informed of the results and he is heartbroken and was in tears on the phone," she said. "We are very sad that he will be missing the birth of his son, he is so happy and excited about this baby and it breaks his heart knowing that he can't be there for me during the complicated pregnancy that I am having. I told Larry to stay strong and not to cry, this isn't the end."