Lynndie England Trial To Start

Army Pfc. Lynndie England arrives for a court hearing at Fort Hood, Texas, Monday, May 2, 2005. England is expected to plead guitly Monday to criminal charges arising from her role in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. At back is her defense counsel Rick Hernandez.
Four months after she tried without success to plead guilty, Army Pfc. Lynndie England plans to fight charges she played a key role in abusing detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, her lawyer said.

The 22-year-old reservist, who appeared in several graphic photos taken inside Abu Ghraib in 2003, goes on trial this week on two counts of conspiracy, four counts of mistreating prisoners and one count of committing an indecent act.

She will be the last of a group of junior enlisted soldiers charged with abuses at the notorious prison to have their cases resolved. Two have been convicted at trial, while six others made plea deals and received prison sentences of up to eight years. Most were members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company.

A final hearing is scheduled Tuesday to resolve any last-minute motions, with jury selection and opening statements to follow on Wednesday. The trial is expected to conclude by the end of September.

In May, England entered into a plea agreement that eventually fell apart, but this time around "there's not going to be a deal," said Capt. Jonathan Crisp, her lead defense lawyer.

Crisp said he plans to base much of his defense on England's history of mental health problems that date back to her early childhood.

He said he also will focus on the influence exerted over England by Pvt. Charles Graner, the reputed abuse ringleader. Graner, who England has said fathered her young son while they were deployed, is serving a 10-year sentence after being convicted at trial in January.

"I wouldn't say it's 'Blame Graner,"' Crisp said of his trial strategy, which includes calling Graner as a witness. "But certainly Graner is involved as far as what was going on."

In her attempted plea deal, England pleaded guilty to all of the same counts she faces this week in exchange for an undisclosed sentencing cap. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 11 years.

But judge Col. James Pohl abruptly threw out the deal and declared a mistrial during the sentencing phase when testimony by Graner contradicted England's guilty plea.

Prosecutors, who declined to talk about the trial, are expected to rely on the photos that have made England the scandal's most recognizable figure. In one photo, she is seen holding a prisoner on a leash.

A ruling by Pohl in July, however, tossed out a key piece of the prosecution's case — statements to Army investigators in which England implicated herself in the abuse.

The judge said that he believed England did not fully understand the consequences when she waived her rights against self-incrimination before speaking to the investigators in January 2004.