FORT HOOD, Texas – Officers were screened as potential jurors Wednesday as the court-martial got under way for Army Pfc. Lynndie England (search), one of the most visible figures in the scandal over the treatment of inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
England broke with the pattern of her co-defendants on Tuesday by opting for an all-officer jury. Selection began Wednesday, and opening remarks by prosecutors and defense attorneys were scheduled for the afternoon. The first witnesses in the case are expected to testify Thursday.
A military judge ruled Tuesday that prosecutors may use a statement England gave to investigators implicating herself.
England is being court-martialed on seven counts of conspiracy and prisoner abuse and faces up to 11 years in a military prison if convicted. The 22-year-old reservist from rural West Virginia is shown in a number of graphic photos taken by Abu Ghraib guards in 2003 that shocked the nation when they were disclosed last year.
Capt. Jonathan Crisp (search), her lead defense lawyer, has said he plans to base much of his defense on England's history of mental health problems that date to her early childhood. He said he also will focus on the influence exerted over her by Pvt. Charles Graner, the reputed ringleader of the abuse.
Prosecutors have refused to discuss the trial.
Two of the her co-defendants were convicted by juries made up of officers and enlisted personnel, and the other six made plea deals. Most were members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company.
In May, England made a plea agreement that eventually fell apart, but this time "there's not going to be a deal," Crisp said.
The judge presiding over England's case, Col. James Pohl, had ruled in July that neither of two statements England made in January 2004, when she implicated herself in the abuse, would be admissible. He said he believed she did not fully understand the consequences when she waived her rights against self-incrimination before speaking to the investigators.
On Tuesday, however, the judge said he now thinks England knew what she was doing when she signed a waiver before making the second statement. Her first statement remains inadmissible.
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.
Pohl threw out the plea deal and declared a mistrial during the sentencing phase because Graner's testimony contradicted England's guilty plea.
Graner, testifying as a defense witness, had said pictures he took of England holding a prisoner on a leash were meant to be used as a training aid. But in her guilty plea, England said the pictures were being taken purely for the amusement of the Abu Ghraib guards.
Graner, who England has said fathered her young son, was convicted in January and sentenced to 10 years in prison.