Army Pfc. Lynndie R. England, who appeared in shocking photos from the Abu Ghraib prison, 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. 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, reports Washington Post.
According to Reuters, the Army reservist faces a maximum penalty of 11 years in jail if convicted on all seven counts on charges of conspiracy, maltreatment of subordinates and indecent acts. A military jury sentenced Graner to ten years in prison earlier this year, and since his incarceration he has married another woman who pleaded guilty in the scandal.
England, a clerk with no official duties in the section of the prison where the abuses occurred, also posed with Graner in front of a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners.
In his opening arguments, prosecutor Chuck Neill said England was an active participant who enjoyed the scenes portrayed on camera, and at one point shouted out that a prisoner forced to masturbate was showing signs of arousal.
"This was simply for the amusement of Pfc. England and the other soldiers," Neill told a five-officer military jury, pointing out her smile in photos. "Pfc. England is actively involved in what is going on that night."