Thursday, May 05, 2005

Bizarre Turn in the Lynndie England Case

As I mentioned on Sunday, Private Lynndie England had reached a deal with military prosecutors and planned to plead guilty to seven charges related to her role in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. England's plea was accepted on Monday and the court-martial began hearing testimony to determine her penalty. Yesterday afternoon, during the second day of testimony, the judge overseeing the case abruptly declared a mistrial and voided England's guilty plea, returning the case to military prosecutors for "reexamination."

The surprise twist came as a result of surprising testimony from Private Charles Graner Jr., widely considered the "ringleader" in the abuse scandal. Contrary to England's guilty plea, in which she admitted that she knew her actions were wrong, Graner said that he had asked England to attach a dog leash to an Iraqi prisoner and remove him from his cell. "I was asking her as the senior person at that extraction," Graner said, as quoted in the New York Times.

Colonel James Pohl immediately intervened, telling England's defense team "If you don't want to plead guilty, don't. But you can't plead guilty and then say you're not. Am I missing something here?" "If Private Graner is to be believed, he was not violating any law, so you could not be violating any law. If you don't believe you were guilty, doing what Graner told you, you can't plead guilty."

Pohl removed the seven-officer 'jury' from the courtroom and discussed options with England's defense team and prosecutors for approximately three hours, and then ruled the case a mistrial based on Graner's "undercutting" of England's guilty plea. He suggested that the defense and prosecution teams negotiate another deal under new conditions.

Where things go from here is quite unclear, but it seems fairly likely that England's lawyers will secure another deal with prosecutors in the near future. Graner's testimony begs the question, however: if he viewed what was happening as a legitimate exercise, where did his orders come from? Where is the action against his superior officers?


At 9:35 AM, Blogger Mark said...

they shouldn't have treated those poor iraqui prisoners that way. it was cruel. they should have simply taken all their food and water away from them and let them starve and dehydrate to death. according to the courts in the state of florida, it is a pleasand peaceful beautiful way to die. that certainly seems more humane than stripping them naked. and saves the taxpayers money.


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