HARMAN MCGRIFF *{978CB0A1-4F59-4B8E-9DB7-09F584CFEE13}*
David J. Phillip  /  AP
Spc. Sabrina D. Harman, left, and Sgt. Davida McGriff, a member of her defense team, arrive at the courthouse in Fort Hood, Texas, Thursday.
updated 5/12/2005 2:59:52 PM ET 2005-05-12T18:59:52

Military lawyers on Thursday began choosing the Army officers and senior enlisted soldiers who will hear the case of the soldier who posed for some of the most notorious photos of Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse.

The jury selection was expected to take less than a day, followed by the first peek at Spc. Sabrina Harman’s defense that she did nothing wrong at the Iraqi lockup.

Just how her attorneys plan to do that remains unclear. Unlike lawyers representing other Abu Ghraib defendants, defense attorney Frank Spinner has refused to publicly discuss his strategy or his client’s role in what happened at Abu Ghraib.

The trial is expected to last at least a week.

The judge has rejected defense attempts to keep some of the notorious Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse photos from the jury. The photos prompted condemnation around the globe of U.S. military treatment of detainees at the prison.

Defendant could face 6½-year prison term
Harman, a onetime pizza shop manager from Lorton, Va., is the second service member to go on trial on charges that she took part in mistreating detainees. Charles Graner Jr., the alleged ringleader in the scandal and the only service member to be convicted at trial, was expected to be a witness.

Harman could face up to 6½ years if convicted of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, five counts of maltreating detainees and dereliction of duty.

The 27-year-old reservist is accused of writing “rapeist” on the leg of one prisoner and forcing another to stand on a box with wires in his hands and telling him he would be electrocuted if he fell. In the photo, seen worldwide after the scandal broke, the hooded detainee is shown perched on a small box, with his hands outstretched.

In another photo, Harman gives a thumbs-up while posing with the corpse of an Iraqi detainee allegedly beaten by Navy SEALs at Abu Ghraib who later died while being interrogated by CIA agents.

Prosecutors get go-ahead for photos
During a pretrial hearing Wednesday, Col. James Pohl gave prosecutors the go-ahead to show jurors 29 of the photos.

He also refused to allow the defense to present a statement to investigators from the prisoner shown standing on the box. The prisoner, known as “Gilligan,” said in the statement that other soldiers forced him to stand on the box.

Pohl said the statement was not permissible because of questions about its trustworthiness and the fact that Gilligan could not be located to be a sworn witness subject to cross-examination.

Capt. Cullen Sheppard, a prosecution spokesman, said the government tried without success to locate Gilligan after his release from U.S. custody.

Defense lawyer Spinner said Gilligan’s statement was not critical, but that “I’m still astonished that the government objects to introducing a statement of the alleged victim.”

Indecent acts charge dropped
Earlier this year, Harman’s legal team tried to get the photograph-related counts dismissed altogether, arguing that the taking of the photos did not itself cause prisoners any harm. But Pohl ruled in March that a jury should decide whether taking the photos constituted a crime.

Pohl did drop a charge of engaging in indecent acts, which carried a maximum five-year penalty. On that charge, Harman had been accused of being among a group of guards who watched naked detainees masturbate.

Four other Abu Ghraib guards have accepted plea agreements. Their sentences ranged from no time to serve to 8½ years. Pfc. Lynndie England, the most recognizable Abu Ghraib defendant, also made a deal with prosecutors, but Pohl threw it out last week when sentencing testimony by Graner conflicted with England’s guilty plea on a conspiracy charge.

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