US soldier accused of Afghan killings has memory gaps-lawyer

Reuters, Friday 23 Mar 2012

Lawyer for Robert Bales - accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians - says his client's mental state will be an issue in the case, his war experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan make 'The Hurt Locker' seem like a Disney movie

The attorneys for Colton Harris-Moore, left, appear in Island County Superior Court in Coupville, Wash, Dec. 16, 2011. (Photo: AP)

The attorney for the US soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians said on Friday his client has memory gaps and does not fully understand the allegations against him.

US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a four-tour combat veteran accused of killing the Afghans in a shooting rampage in Kandahar last week, is expected to be charged on Friday with 17 counts of murder, a US official said on Thursday.

Earlier accounts of the incident had tallied 16 victims, including nine children and three women.

Attorney John Henry Browne said on the CBS "This Morning" program that Bales has "windows here and there into things, but he really doesn't have any memory. In meetings with him, it clearly indicates to me he's got memory problems that go back long before that."

Browne said Bales was "kind of in shock ... he didn't really know the nature of the specific allegations when I met with him."

The Seattle attorney said Bales' combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan had been "pretty horrific."

"Have you seen the movie "The Hurt Locker"? That's a Disney movie compared to what these guys are going through," Browne said.

Asked if he would use mental incapacity as a defense, Browne said, "My first reaction to all of this is, prove it ... This is going to be a very difficult case for the government to prove in my opinion. There is no CSI (crime scene investigation) stuff. There's no DNA. There's no fingerprints."

But he said, "The mental state eventually will be definitely an issue."

Browne is expected to evoke post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as a factor in the trial, a technique he employed in the defense of a Seattle-area thief known as the "Barefoot Bandit." The US Army said this week it was reviewing the way it diagnoses PTSD among troops.

Bales is being held in solitary confinement at a military detention center in Leavenworth, Kansas. Legal proceedings against him likely will take place at Bales' home base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, close to Tacoma, Washington, a US official said. 

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