Lynndie England: Oxygen Deprived at Birth
A military jury has begun hearing evidence in the sentencing phase of FPC Lynndie England's abuse trial. The prosecution called no witnesses. The defense case began with a doctor who testified England was cognitively impaired due to oxygen deprivation at birth. Her problems, which include speech impairment and reading disability, were diagnosed in kindergarten.
"I knew I was going to know Lynndie England for the rest of my life," West Virginia school psychologist Dr. Thomas Denne said.
How does that impact her moral judgment? The doctor said it made her less resistant to peer pressure. But does it excuse this behavior?
In one of the photos, 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.
I'm not surprised to learn she is mentally impaired. Does she deserve a lesser sentence than her boyfriend, Chief Abuser Charles Graner who got ten years? Yes. But she also doesn't deserve a walk or even a slap on the wrist. You don't have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to know torture and abuse is wrong.
Update: I just received this from a very well-respected, excellent defense lawyer:
I've always thought that Lynndie England's facial features suggested Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which can lower IQ. It doesn't surprise me to learn that she has diminished intelligence. Perhaps I work with too many clients with mental retardation, but her work history alone -- working as a bagger in a grocery store -- has always suggested cognitive problems to me.
While it is true that folks with mental retardation know the difference between right and wrong, the core issue is that of impulsivity -- essentially, that they don't learn from experience. So, they tend to do wrong things because, even though in the past they may have learned the difference between right and wrong, they don't retain that learning. This is why you find folks with mental retardation doing "wrong" things over and over again. Folks with MR also are much more vulnerable to being led by others (see, e.g., Charles Graner) into wrong actions.
Now, is Lynndie England MR? Hard to know. Had this been a capital offense, she wouldn't be exempt from execution if her IQ weren't 70 or below. Since she was labelled as "learning disabled" (which isn't dispositive because lots of times schools use this label to avoid the "stigma" of retardation and to avoid paying for the extra services that MR kids require), it's probable that her IQ is above 70, but less than 90. That would put her in the borderline MR category.
One final thing: just because her IQ is low or even in the MR range doesn't mean that Lynndie England couldn't get in the military. I've seen firsthand how recruiters will change ASVAB scores so that recruits will qualify for the military. Also, a person with borderline MR probably can function quite well in the military as long as their duties aren't very complex.
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