Lawyer brings Abu Ghraib knowledge to SIUE

In a standing room only event, students and faculty had the opportunity to learn first hand about the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse case.

Michael Holley, associate lawyer for The Lanier Law Firm in Houston, Texas and former chief prosecutor of the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse case, came to SIUE to speak about the Abu Ghraib case and to share with pre-law students some of his experiences as a prosecutor.

Former Chief Prosecutor for the Abu Ghraib case, Michael Holley. photo courtesy of The Lanier Law firm.

Holley has a wealth of experience to share with SIUE students and faculty. According to a short biography on The Lanier Law Firm website, Holley “served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s [JAG] Corps. During his service, Mr. Holley acquired significant trial experience as both a military prosecutor and military defense attorney, culminating with service as the Chief Prosecutor for the Abu Ghraib Detainee Abuse cases. As a Judge Advocate, Mr. Holley tried 15 jury cases and approximately 75 bench trials in locations across the United States, Korea, Japan, Germany and Iraq.”

Holley came to SIUE because of a conversation he had with Larry LaFond, associate professor of English language and literature and associate dean of SIUE’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). According to LaFond, he and Holley met at a theological conference in Houston that was sponsored by Mark Lanier, head of The Lanier Law Firm. Lanier knew that LaFond was from Edwardsville and Holley makes frequent trips to Edwardsville to practice law.

“I met Professor LaFond at a theological presentation in Houston a few weeks ago.  We struck up a friendship there, and I offered to speak at SIUE if he were interested.  I travel to Illinois regularly for business, and I enjoy speaking to students whenever I have an opportunity to do so,” said Holley.

LaFond stated that he and Holley began talking and found out that they had both been military staffers in the past–LaFond as an Navy Chaplain and Holley as a prosecutor in the (JAG) corps.

“He mentioned that he had played a part in the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse trial. I asked him at that point whether he would consider coming to speak to our students about that when he was up in Edwardsville,” said LaFond.

LaFond stated that he knew that the Abu Ghraib story was something that many people at SIUE would be interested in discussing.

“The Abu Ghraib story itself is something that is pretty compelling and interesting and I thought that the whole university community would be interested in that,” said LaFond. “We were also hoping that he would be able to talk to our pre-law students about the use of visuals and model for them what a prosecutor does, which I think he did marvelously.”

Holley walked the audience through many of the facts of the case. Ann Dirks-Linhorst, associate professor of sociology and criminal justice studies, said Holley attacked three main question in his presentation–what happened, why it happened, and who was responsible.

“He spent time with us talking about exactly what types of abuse did occur. He used some photographs–mostly ones that had been seen in public media before–he went through some additional explanation. He talked about why it happened,” said Dirks-Linhorst. “He even had a schematic of the physical structure Abu Ghraib and was able to take us through which detainees were held in this portion and what were the security measures.”

LaFond stated that Holley stressed the value of a good prosecutor was to help keep people honest in what they do.

“His talk was very compelling. He clearly showed the value of having a good, solid, ethical prosecutor and how it can encourage institutions to hold to the best practices and standards, and punish them when they don’t,” said LaFond.

This was echoed by Holley who stated his goal as the lead prosecutor in the Abu Ghraib case was to obtain justice.

“By that I meant using the criminal justice process as intended—to bring to light all the relevant facts pertaining to the crimes alleged.  Whether those facts came from the defense or from government investigators was irrelevant as was obtaining a particular conviction rate or significant sentence.  We wanted to make the system work as it should without cutting corners or submitting to external influences,” said Holley.

Holley stated that he wanted the audience to understand that the causes of the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib were more complex than the positions portrayed by the media.

“He clearly came down on the side of this was not a situation where people were given orders to do this. He said that was the original defense, but as he and his lead council got into interviewing the defendants it became clear that they hadn’t really been given an order. It was just ‘We thought we could. We thought no one cared,’” said Dirks-Linhorst. “He also talked about the administration and where they had made errors in failing to supervise, not being on site.”

Holley stated that the public needs to look beyond the media portrayal to understand  the true story.

“The truth rarely lends itself to sound bites.  It’s helpful to really think and talk through events with people who are willing to listen and carefully consider what is being presented,” said Holley.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: Pre-Law

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Switch to our mobile site