FORT HOOD, Tex., Jan. 13 -- After a military judge again rebuffed their efforts to probe the role of senior Army officers in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, defense lawyers for former guard Charles A. Graner Jr. rested their case Thursday, leaving the defendant's fate up to a 10-man military jury.
The judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, scheduled final arguments and legal instructions for early Friday morning, meaning the jury will likely start deliberations before lunch. If it convicts Graner on the five counts against him, the reservist could face as much as 17 1/2 years in the stockade.
Army Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr. is surrounded by news cameras as he leaves the courtroom in Fort Hood, Tex. The defense rested without him testifying.
(Jeff Mitchell -- Reuters)
Graner, 36, did not take the witness stand -- as his lawyers initially indicated he would -- to explain his conduct at the prison near Baghdad, where U.S. soldiers' beatings and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners sparked a global wave of anti-American indignation. His lawyer, Guy Womack, said the defense "came in with a checklist of things we wanted to present to the jury. Once we accomplished that, there was no reason to continue."
As has happened all week, testimony at the court-martial Thursday suggested that senior officers at Abu Ghraib knew about the conduct of guards who have been charged with crimes in the cellblock known as "One-Alpha."
A defense witness, Army Sgt. Kenneth A. Davis of Hagerstown, testified that he had raised concerns with his platoon leader after passing through One-Alpha in the fall of 2003. "I told him that MI [Military Intelligence] was doing some pretty weird things with naked detainees over there," Davis testified.
When defense lawyers asked how the officer responded to this warning, Pohl stopped the questioning, saying it involved inadmissible hearsay evidence.
Another guard, former Spec. Megan Ambuhl, testified that Graner and other enlisted guards were regularly complimented by officers and U.S. intelligence personnel who came to the cellblock. "They encouraged us all the time," she said.
Ambuhl, who left the Army last year in a plea bargain stemming from the Abu Ghraib investigation, said she was told by military intelligence experts "to point at the detainees and laugh at them while they were in the shower." Pohl blocked questioning as to why Ambuhl was given this order.
The guards were proud of their work, Ambuhl said. "We were hoping to save the lives of soldiers that were outside the wire," she testified, by "softening up" prisoners so that they would reveal intelligence information about the Iraqi insurgency.
Ambuhl said the guards posted pictures of their procedures -- such as forcing naked inmates to simulate sex and leading by a leash a naked prisoner on all fours -- on the "desktop" screen of the office computer. She testified that she saw the senior military intelligence officer at the prison, Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, looking at the photos on the computer.
The Army says that Jordan is under investigation in connection with the prison scandal. He was not called to testify here, said Capt. Chuck Neil, an Army lawyer, because he would have invoked his right against self-incrimination and would have declined to testify.
President Bush and the Pentagon have said that the Abu Ghraib abuse was the fault of seven low-ranking enlisted soldiers in the One-Alpha cellblock. No officers at the prison, and none in the overall chain of command, have been charged in the case to date.
Four soldiers have pleaded guilty. Graner, who was demoted from corporal to specialist, is the first to stand trial. His future rests in the hands of the six enlisted men and four officers on the jury.