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US Marine guilty of murdering innocent Iraqi
Times Onlinee (UK)
Nico Hines and agencies
August 3, 2007

A US Marine was facing life in prison today after murdering an innocent man in Iraq and then trying to frame him as an insurgent.

Sergeant Lawrence G. Hutchins III shot the civilian after the squad he was leading failed to find the rebel fighter they were hunting. They took their frustration out on one of his neighbours, believed to be Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a 52-year-old grandfather.

Eight Marines dragged the man from his house to a nearby hole last year. He was shot sometime later before the soldiers placed an AK-47 and a shovel near his body to give the impression he had been planting a bomb, a court martial in California heard.

The conviction comes as it was announced that four more US soldiers were killed in Baghdad yesterday. Three troops died when a roadside bomb struck their patrol in eastern Baghdad, on the other side of the capital a fourth soldier was killed in combat.

The deaths bring the US death toll in Iraq to at least 3,665 since the invasion in 2003. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have also died in the conflict.

The death of Mr Awad came in April 2006 during a night-time patrol by a squad of Marines in Hamdania near the controversial Abu Graib prison.

The squad was pulled from the battlefield after the killing and all eight members were initially charged with murder and kidnapping. But Sgt Hutchins, 23, is the first soldier to be found guilty of murder in the case, five of the other seven Marines made plea bargains and accepted lesser charges including conspiracy.

Sgt Hutchins was also found guilty last night of larceny, making a false official statement and conspiracy to commit murder - he was thought to be the mastermind of the plan. The jury was considering his sentence today, which could range from dishonourable discharge to life imprisonment.

Corporal Marshall Magincalda, 24, another member of the squad was found guilty of conspiracy for his part in the murder and ensuing cover-up, but the jury decided that he had fired no shots.

"I would like to think I will go on to do good things in my life and can leave a better impression than that which I have right now," said Cpl Magincalda.

With the jury deliberating Cpl Magincalda's sentence, he can take some comfort from the dishonourable discharge given to Cpl Trent Thomas last month.

Cpl Thomas was also cleared of murder, but was found to have played a greater role in the kidnap and murder plot than Cpl Magicalda and suffered only a reduction in rank and a bad-conduct discharge.

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