Judge rules out England’s statements for trial
By Debbie Stevenson
FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) – Statements that U.S. Army
reservist Lynndie England gave investigators about the abuse of
prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison cannot be used in her
court-martial, a military judge ruled on Friday.
The ruling at a pretrial hearing was a blow to prosecutors
and prompted smiles from defense attorneys and from England,
who became the face of the scandal because of photos that
showed her grinning beside hooded, abused prisoners.
After testimony from psychologists that England may not
have understood her legal rights and may have given inaccurate
answers because of a learning disability, Pohl said statements
she gave in January 2004 could not be permitted as evidence.
“The court finds that under the totality of circumstances
in this case, the accused did not understand her rights,” he
Pohl also postponed England’s court-martial to Sept. 19
from August after her lawyer requested more time before trial.
England, 22, was one of a group of guards who were
willingly photographed abusing naked and blindfolded prisoners
held by the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad
after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.
The scandal embarrassed the U.S. military and added to
international indignation at U.S. actions in Iraq.
In one picture, England was holding a leash attached to the
neck of a naked Iraqi prisoner collapsed on the prison floor.
In a trial in May, England pleaded guilty in a deal with
prosecutors for a reduced sentence but Pohl declared a mistrial
because he felt testimony by her former lover and accused Abu
Ghraib abuse ringleader Charles Graner raised doubts England
believed she had committed a crime.
England’s attorney, Capt. Jonathan Crisp, tried
unsuccessfully on Thursday to get Pohl to recuse himself from
the case on grounds he could not conduct a fair trial for
England will face six charges including conspiracy,
prisoner maltreatment and committing an indecent act, for which
she faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted.
Crisp said on Thursday England would plead not guilty.
Six soldiers charged in the abuse scandal have pleaded
guilty, while two others, including Graner, were tried and
convicted. Graner is serving a 10-year prison sentence.