Although prosecutors appear to have lost, the judge’s ruling marks a toothless victory for the defense. Manning is charged with violating 22 separate counts, including that he aided the enemy. The 25-year-old private is facing a potential sentence of life in prison.
In contrast to Lind’s 112-day determination, it is not uncommon for judges to allow defendants held while awaiting trial to receive full credit for the amount of time spent in pretrial detention. They typically receive that full credit even when they aren’t subject to what Lind determined were improper and punitive conditions of confinement in the Manning case.
The judge read her decision in open court. She said Manning’s detention was “more rigorous than necessary,” according to the Associated Press. She also concluded that the government’s treatment of Manning “became excessive in relation to legitimate government interests.”
Manning was held alone in a cell for nearly nine months and kept on a highly restrictive suicide watch for much of that time despite the recommendation of a mental health adviser that the watch be lifted and his conditions of confinement be eased.
Manning and his lawyers argued that the tough treatment was illegal punishment meted out by military officials who failed to honor the requirement that defendants be treated as innocent until proven guilty.
Detention officials defended the decision to maintain the suicide watch and other tough measures, despite the earlier recommendation that conditions be eased. They said months earlier the same mental health expert had made a similar recommendation that a prisoner’s watch status be downgraded. That prisoner committed suicide in the facility.
News of Manning’s harsh treatment sparked protests at the gates of the Marine base at Quantico. In April 2011, he was moved to a medium-security pretrial detention facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.