U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will face 17 counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder in a military court Friday, following a massacre two weeks earlier of Afghan civilians in which he is the prime suspect.
Bales, who is currently being held in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., allegedly went on a shooting rampage through an Afghan village in Kandahar Province, killing civilians as they slept, including women and nine children. Some of the bodies had been burned before Bales was apprehended.
Initial reports stated that there were 16 homicide victims and six wounded, but an additional one was added to the death toll without further explanation. None of the wounded have since died, leading to speculation that one of the female victims may have been pregnant or remains of another victim have since been discovered, the Washington Post reported.
John Henry Browne, Bales' attorney, is claiming that Bales does not remember the time period in which the murders occurred and indicated that his client's mental state would be an important factor in the trial, the Associated Press reported.
He has some memories about what happened before the alleged events and some memories after the alleged events and some windows here and there into things, but he really doesn't have any memory, Browne told AP. My meetings with him clearly indicate to me that he's got memory problems that go back long before that.
Browne has connected Bales' memory lapse to a concussive head injury he said the staff sergeant suffered while serving in combat, and that the injury went untreated, AP reported.
Browne has portrayed Bales as a loving father of two and a good husband, who has dutifully served his country, but has been traumatized physically and mentally by the experience.
Bales, 38, was on his fourth tour of duty, having served three tours in Iraq where he had suffered the head injury, AP reported.
If convicted, Bales could face the death penalty, though the U.S. military has not executed a service member since 1961. A lengthy prison sentence is more likely.