updated 7/31/2007 8:51:29 PM ET 2007-08-01T00:51:29

A Marine accused of masterminding a plot to kidnap and kill an Iraqi civilian told his squad, "Gents, we just got away with murder" after firing three fatal rounds into the man's head, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III is charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and other offenses in the April 26, 2006, killing.

The defense was expected to follow with its own closing argument in the court-martial.

Hutchins led a squad of seven Marines and one Navy corpsman charged in the killing. Prosecutors say the squad's most senior Marine grew frustrated that a suspected insurgent kept evading criminal prosecution, so he dreamed up a plot to kidnap and kill the man.

When the kidnap did not go according to plan, the men instead kidnapped a neighbor, dragged him 1,000 yards to a roadside hole and shot him to death, with Hutchins firing the final shots to the man's head, prosecutors say.

The soldiers are accused of trying to cover up the killing by planting a shovel and machine gun on the man's body to make him look like an insurgent.

Two face life in prison
Closing arguments also were under way Tuesday for Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, the other man still facing charges. He is not accused of firing any shots, but under military law he would be as guilty as those who did because he allegedly did nothing to stop the killing.

Both Hutchins and Magincalda face mandatory life sentences if convicted of premeditated murder.

Hutchins, 23, and Magincalda, 24, are the last of the squad to be charged.

Hutchins' defense attorney Rich Brannon has said his client is innocent and only participated because he was under pressure from his superiors to catch insurgents.

Magincalda's attorney has said his client wanted no part in the plot and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time.

Prosecutors have previously identified the victim as a retired policeman named Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, but his name was struck from the charge sheets for Hutchins, Magincalda and another defendant. The victim is now referred to as an "unknown Iraqi male." Defense attorneys said prosecutors could not conclusively identify the body.

Ties to insurgents?
Defense attorneys have tried to suggest that Awad may have had direct ties to insurgents.

Four lower-ranking Marines and the sailor charged in the case made deals with prosecutors in exchange for their testimony and received sentences ranging from one to eight years in prison.

On Jul. 20, Cpl. Trent Thomas was acquitted of premeditated murder but convicted of murder conspiracy and kidnapping; he was reduced in rank to private and given a bad-conduct discharge but received no prison time.

Defense attorneys for Hutchins and Magincalda hope their military jurors may also look at the kidnap plot through sympathetic lenses. All jurors in both cases have at least one combat tour under their belts.

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