Army Prisoner Abuse Suspect Waives Hearing

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Army Pvt. Lynndie England waives her right to an Article 32 hearing scheduled for Tuesday at Fort Hood in Texas. Article 32 hearings are similar to grand jury proceedings in civilian courts where a decision is made on whether to take charges to trial. England is accused of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad. A previous guilty plea from England was thrown out due to evidence at her sentencing.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A pretrial hearing for Army Private First Class Lynndie England ended before it began this morning. England was infamously photographed holding a naked Iraqi detainee on a leash. From Ft. Hood, Texas, NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO reporting:

There have now been hundreds of reported instances in which American servicemen and women have mistreated Iraqi prisoners. Some of those abuses were so intense, they resulted in death. Yet Lynndie England remains, in her lawyer's words, the face of the prison abuse scandal. England has been in the military legal system for more than a year now, charged with crimes related to photographs that she took with naked Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Her defense lawyer, Captain Jonathan Crisp, said this morning that his client just wants to get this process over with.

Captain JONATHAN CRISP (Defense Lawyer for Lynndie England): Her frame of mind now is the same as it was two or three weeks ago. She is wanting to move forward with her life and put this behind her as quickly as possible.

SHAPIRO: Three weeks ago, England thought she had a deal. Defense lawyers had worked out an agreement with prosecutors in which England would serve a short prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. But that deal fell apart when Charles Graner, who's been called the ringleader of the prisoner abuse, testified on England's behalf. The judge thought Graner's testimony contradicted England's guilty plea, so the judge threw out the deal and sent the case back to the beginning, which led to the hearing that was supposed to happen today.

Another plea agreement is not out of the question, but according to Captain Crisp...

Capt. CRISP: At this point, anything--any discussions about a plea deal are extremely premature and would not be based on any fact at all.

SHAPIRO: Today, the defense gave an unconditional waiver of the pretrial hearing. That means the prosecution did not make any concessions. Crisp wouldn't discuss his motives for the decision beyond saying that it was part of an evolving trial strategy. But Major Rose Bloom, who represents the military legal system, said there are many reasons the defense team might skip this stage.

Major ROSE BLOOM (Representative of Military Legal System): If you don't think there's anything to be gained from the Article 32 as a defense counsel, if you think that other evidence may come out that you don't want, if you want to speed the process up for your client.

SHAPIRO: Now the investigating officer who would have heard testimony in today's hearing will make a recommendation to the commander in charge of Ft. Hood. That commander will decide whether England should face another court-martial. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Ft. Hood, Texas.

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