United States v. Frederick

CCA 20041129, vol. 4 of 8 (2004)

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United States v. Frederick

CCA 20041129, vol. 4 of 8 (2004)


[Editor’s Note: The casebook excerpt presents the testimony of Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who, along with two others, conducted the landmark Stanford Prison Experiment published in 1973.] Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, II (defendant) was a guard at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Frederick participated in the mistreatment of detainees that gained worldwide attention. For example, Frederick participated in hooking wires to a prisoner’s hands, instructing the prisoner to stand on a box, and threatening that stepping off the box would result in electrocution. Frederick forced naked detainees to get into a pyramid formation and to masturbate publicly. Frederick forced a detainee to position his head relative to another detainee in a manner that simulated oral sex. Zimbardo was asked to present testimony regarding his prison study. Zimbardo explained how, 32 years prior, he had simulated a prison environment using 24 college students as guards and prisoners. The study was supposed to continue for two weeks, but it had to be halted after only six days. Zimbardo drew parallels between the behavior of the night-shift guards in his study and at Abu Ghraib, both of whom forced prisoners to be naked, forced them to simulate sexual conduct, and put bags on their heads. Zimbardo argued that his study should have been a warning to military personnel that proper training was necessary for the guards at Abu Ghraib. Zimbardo testified that the situational forces in such a setting made abuse inevitable, especially considering that the guards were expected to soften detainees up in preparation for interrogation. For Zimbardo, the question was whether Frederick brought a measure of pathology to the context or whether the context brought out a measure of pathology in Frederick, a good soldier. Zimbardo described Frederick as a terrific young man whom he would allow to babysit his children anytime. On cross-examination, the government drew distinctions between Abu Ghraib and Zimbardo’s study, which used untrained college students under the age of 24, and Frederick, a 38-year-old soldier who had served as a correctional officer for seven years. Zimbardo acknowledged that in his experiment, the use of hoods at times and the fact that inmates wore smocks with no underwear was his and his staff’s idea to humiliate and sexually emasculate the prisoners. The government asserted that what Zimbardo now described as the abuse in his experiment was just his research controls and not parallel to abuse at Abu Ghraib. Zimbardo disagreed that abuse was either encouraged or permitted in his study. Zimbardo explained that he simply had detainees wear smocks to minimize their masculinity, but the guards took it to another level, treating the detainees like playthings, forcing them to simulate sodomy, and the like. On redirect, Zimbardo explained that he was not excusing Frederick’s behavior and that the situational approach tried to ascertain why a good soldier with a clean record and whose psychological tests did not predict abuse would suddenly engage in such terrible conduct. Zimbardo argued that the military itself was on trial, along with all those in Frederick’s chain of command who should have provided adequate training and stopped the abuse. Zimbardo argued that Frederick’s sentence should be mitigated by the responsibility of his superiors.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning ()

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