Harman Prison Abuse Case Goes to Jury

A letter from Spc. Sabrina Harman (search) to her roommate in Virginia suggested that the Army reservist took pictures of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison because she was opposed to the treatment and wanted to document the wrongdoing.

"At first I thought it was funny, but these people are going too far," Harman wrote to Kelly Bryant in the Oct. 20, 2003, letter, which was introduced in court during defense arguments at her trial Monday. "Kelly, it's awful. I thought I could handle anything, but I was wrong."

The letter was read before the jury of four Army officers and four senior enlisted soldiers began deliberating Harman's fate Monday evening. If Harman is found guilty on any of the charges, the next step will be a sentencing hearing.

She faces up to 6 1/2 years if convicted of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, five counts of maltreating detainees and dereliction of duty.

In closing arguments, prosecutors said Harman and other guards on the night shift at Abu Ghraib (search) conspired to mistreat the prisoners.

"They were all acting together for their own amusement," said Capt. Chris Graveline. "There was no justification for what they did that night."

Graveline said the group took pictures of what they were doing "so they could remember that night, so they could laugh again at these men. ... There's nothing funny about what happened at Abu Ghraib."

Defense lawyer Frank Spinner said Harman was a novice soldier who had no prison guard experience and who received virtually no training before going to work at the chaotic and overcrowded prison as part of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company (search).

"Shame on the Army for putting an ill-equipped, ill-trained junior specialist in a position where she had to challenge her (enlisted) leadership to do the right thing," he said after putting on a case that lasted only a few hours. "This is not one of the Army's finest moments."

Harman, a former pizza shop manager from Virginia, is the second soldier to be tried for allegedly mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib. She is depicted in several of the most notorious photos taken at Abu Ghraib in late October and early November 2003, and she is accused of taking other pictures.

Harman posed for a photo with Pvt. Charles Graner Jr. (search) behind a group of naked detainees stacked in a pyramid. In another photo, the 27-year-old reservist is shown with a prisoner on whose leg she is accused of writing "rapeist."

Harman said in the letter that her initial amusement at how the detainees were mistreated gave way to the realization that her co-defendants were engaged in illegal actions.

"It hit me it was a form of molestation — you can't do that," she wrote.

The letter to Bryant was written a few days before the first instance of abuse that Harman is accused of committing. Bryant read her roommate's words from the witness stand Monday.

Six co-defendants in the Abu Ghraib case have made plea bargains. Graner was convicted in January and is now serving a 10-year sentence in an Army prison.

Pfc. Lynndie England, the most recognizable Abu Ghraib defendant, also reached a plea deal but the judge threw it out in early May after Graner's testimony contradicted England's assertion that she knew her actions were wrong.