Jury Seated in Abu Ghraib Abuse Case

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A 10-man jury was seated Friday in the military trial of the accused ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

Opening statements were scheduled to begin Monday in the court-martial of Spc. Charles Graner, the first soldier to be tried in the case.

The jury is comprised of four officers and six enlisted men. Two prospective jurors were dismissed, including one who said he was embarrassed as an Army officer after seeing photos of the abuse.

A list of potential witnesses was released during jury selection.

Among them are the four other soldiers who have reached plea deals after being charged with Abu Ghraib abuses: Pvt. Ivan Frederick, Spc. Megan Ambuhl, Spc. Jeremy Sivits and Spc. Armin Cruz.

On Thursday, prosecutors dropped charges of obstruction of justice, adultery, and two of four assault charges Graner faced.

Capt. Steven Neill, a spokesman for the prosecution, would not say why they were dropped, only that it is usually done for evidentiary issues or strategic reasons.

Guy Womack, Graner's attorney, said he thinks the charges were dropped because his client was wrongly accused of those counts.

Graner, 36, of Uniontown, Pa., faces up to 17 1/2 years in a military prison on charges of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, assault and committing indecent acts. He had faced up to 24 1/2 years before the four charges were dropped.

Seven jurors must agree on a verdict.

Col. Allen Batschelet was dismissed as a prospective juror after he told the judge, Col. James Pohl, that he was embarrassed as an Army officer after seeing the photos. Batschelet admitted that he had strong views about the abuse scandal and that he would not be able to set those views aside as a juror.

Prosecutors dismissed Lt. Col. Mark Kormos without explanation.

Three other soldiers from the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company also face trials.

Among them is Pfc. Lynndie England, who gave birth in October to a child that Army prosecutors claim was fathered by Graner. Her trial at Fort Hood has not yet been scheduled.

In one photo taken at Abu Ghraib, Graner is shown giving a thumbs-up behind a pile of naked Iraq prisoners. Another photo shows him cocking his fist as if to punch a hooded detainee.

Graner, an ex-prison guard, is also accused of jumping on detainees, stomping on their hands and feet, and punching one man in the temple hard enough to knock him out and require medical treatment.

Womack, a former Marine Corps lawyer, made his client's defense clear at a pretrial hearing last month: Graner was ordered by higher-ranking soldiers and other government agents to go rough on detainees to soften them up for interrogators.

Womack said any abusive acts Graner may have committed at Abu Ghraib were not crimes because the soldier had no choice but to obey orders.

Lawyers for the other Abu Ghraib defendants will be closely watching Graner's trial.

"If Graner is successful in his defense, then we've been assured that the prosecution will take an entirely different, enlightened position pertaining to our case," said attorney Paul Bergrin, whose client, Sgt. Javal Davis, is scheduled for trial in February.

Should Graner be convicted, Bergrin said he may rethink his strategy of going to trial and instead pursue a plea bargain for Davis.


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