KILLEEN, Texas – Lawyers for Army Pfc. Lynndie England (search) want to prevent an Army judge from presiding over her retrial on prisoner abuse charges, saying he wrongly undermined England's attempt to plead guilty at her first trial.
The defense's effort to get a new judge in the case is among several matters expected to be determined at a pretrial hearing beginning Thursday at Fort Hood (search). Prosecutors in the Abu Ghraib (search) cases have refused to comment.
Defense attorney Capt. Jonathan Crisp said Wednesday that judge Col. James Pohl should not be allowed to oversee his client's case because he threw out England's guilty plea in May. The case ended in a mistrial.
He "is the one that messed up the case and caused a mistrial in the first place," Crisp said. "A reasonable person, knowing all of the facts of the case, would not think that he could fairly and impartially hear the merits of the case."
Crisp also said he expects Pohl to be a witness in the new trial and therefore should be disqualified from serving as judge. The immediate decision is Pohl's to make but that determination is subject to appeal.
England, 22, could face up to 11 years in prison. She faces two counts of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, four counts of maltreatment and one count of committing an indecent act.
England, a reservist from West Virginia, appeared in some of the most notorious photographs from the 2003 scandal. She is the only soldier charged with abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib whose case has not yet been resolved.
In one picture, England held a leash looped around the neck of a hooded, naked prisoner. Another showed her next to nude prisoners stacked in a pyramid, while a third depicted England pointing at a prisoner's genitals as a cigarette dangled from her lips.
In May, Pohl accepted England's guilty plea to the same list of charges after closely questioning her to make sure she believed she was doing wrong at the time of the abuse. Under military law, the plea could be approved only if the judge was convinced that she knew her actions were illegal.
But Pohl threw out that plea after testimony from the reputed abuse ringleader contradicted her claim that the photos were taken solely to amuse the U.S. guards. Pvt. Charles Graner, serving 10 years for his mistreatment of Iraqi detainees, testified the pictures were meant to be used as a training aid for other guards.