Army Pfc. Lynndie R. England, who appeared in iconic photos from the Abu Ghraib prison that shocked the world, is a "compliant personality" who abused Iraqi prisoners because military superiors told her to, her defense lawyer told a military jury Wednesday.
In his opening statement to the all-male jury of five officers, England's lawyer, Capt. Jonathan Crisp, sought to shift the blame for the Abu Ghraib abuses from the young reservist of Fort Ashby, W.Va., to the Army. Crisp noted that the service recruited England despite her lifelong struggle with mental and learning disorders, and assigned her to one of the world's most dangerous prisons even though she lacked training in police work or corrections.
England has been charged with seven counts of conspiracy and mistreatment of prisoners; she faces 11 years in prison. Last spring, she pleaded guilty to a similar set of charges. But in a dramatic move, the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, threw the plea out after testimony suggested that England was following higher-ranking soldiers' orders. This time, England has pleaded not guilty.
Capt. Chuck Neal, the Army prosecutor, told the jurors that England "just dropped by to be with her friends" who were guards at the prison. In earlier Abu Ghraib trials, though, guards have testified that they called on England to help control an unruly group of Iraqi prisoners on the night in 2003 when much of the abuse occurred.
The Abu Ghraib abuse became public in spring 2004 when whistle-blowers released scores of photographs that showed Iraqi prisoners, some of them naked, hooded and shackled, being taunted by England. So far, six enlisted soldiers have pleaded guilty in the case, and two others were convicted at courts-martial.