An Army judge last week rejected a guilty plea from Private Lynndie England, the young reservist seen grinning in some of the most notorious pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Her plea bargain could have reduced her jail time from 16 years to 30 months, but the case is now back to square one.
Why did the judge stop the trial?
When England entered her plea, she said she posed willingly for the camera--while holding a detainee on a leash--because she wanted to amuse her fellow soldiers. But England ran into trouble during her sentencing hearing when Charles Graner, the convicted ringleader of the Abu Ghraib abuses who is serving 10 years in prison, testified that he had ordered England to pose for the pictures, which he claimed were for legitimate training purposes. That prompted the judge to stop the trial and tell England, "If you honestly believe you were doing what Graner told you to do and that it was O.K., you can't plead guilty."
Why did her lawyers call him to testify?
Good question. Witnesses were supposed to paint a sympathetic picture of England. Graner, who is the father of her infant son, was eager to do so, passing reporters a note before he testified that said, "Knowing what happened in Iraq, it was very upsetting to see Lynn plead guilty to her charges."
Why would that trigger a mistrial?
Court-martial rules require the accused to accept guilt in making a plea bargain. In entering her plea, England initially claimed she had just been following orders but changed her story after conferring with her lawyers for an hour. Graner's testimony was the last straw.
What happens next?
Lieut. General Thomas Metz, who commanded U.S. ground forces in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib scandal, will decide whether to order a new trial, impose a lesser punishment or drop the charges.
Have any officers been held accountable?
Only England's commanding officer, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was demoted last week. An Army probe cleared the other top brass last month.
What is England's relationship with Graner now?
During a break in his testimony, England glanced at a court sketch of Graner, who married another Abu Ghraib defendant, and said, "Don't forget the horns and goatee." --By Mitch Frank