Judge Declares Mistrial in Abu Ghraib Abuse Suit

Three plaintiffs can seek retrial of civil case
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 2, 2024 4:20 PM CDT
Judge Declares Mistrial in Abu Ghraib Abuse Suit
This artist sketch depicts Salah Al-Ejaili, foreground right with glasses, a former Al-Jazeera journalist, before the US District Court in Alexandria, Va., on April 16. Al-Ejaili, a former detainee at Abu Ghraib Prison, described to jurors the type of abuse that is reminiscent of the scandal that erupted...   (Dana Verkouteren via AP, File)

A judge declared a mistrial Thursday after a Virginia jury said it was deadlocked and could not reach a verdict in the trial of a military contractor accused of contributing to the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq two decades ago. The mistrial came in the jury's eighth day of deliberations. The deliberations went far longer than the trial itself, the AP reports. The eight-member civil jury in Alexandria deadlocked on accusations the civilian interrogators supplied to the US Army at Abu Ghraib in 2003 and 2004 had conspired with soldiers to abuse detainees as a means of "softening them up" for questioning.

The trial was the first time a US jury heard claims brought by Abu Ghraib survivors in the 20 years since photos of detainee mistreatment—accompanied by smiling American soldiers inflicting the abuse—shocked the world during the US occupation of Iraq. Reston, Virginia-based CACI had argued that it wasn't complicit in the detainees' abuse. It said that its employees had minimal interaction with the three plaintiffs and that any liability for their mistreatment belonged to the government. Multiple jurors told the AP that a majority of the jury sided with the plaintiffs. The jury sent out a note Wednesday saying it was deadlocked, indicating in particular that it was hung up on a legal principle known as the "borrowed servants" doctrine.

CACI has argued it shouldn't be liable for any misdeeds by its employees if they were under the direction of the Army. The two sides argued about the scope of the doctrine. The jurors who spoke to AP said there was conflicting evidence about whether CACI retained control of its employees while they were in Abu Ghraib. The plaintiffs can seek a retrial. One of their lawyers, Baher Azmy with the Center for Constitutional Rights, suggested they will: "The work we put in to this case is a fraction of what they endured as survivors of the horrors of Abu Ghraib, and we want to honor their courage." CACI's lawyers declined comment.

(More Abu Ghraib stories.)

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