US Suspect in Afghan Massacre to Get Sanity Review

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

SEATTLE - A U.S. soldier charged with killing 16 Afghan civilians after slipping away from his base will undergo a court-ordered review of his sanity this weekend, his lawyers said. Robert Bales' mental health has been expected to be a key part of his defense.

The military judge overseeing the case agreed that the results would not automatically be shared with prosecutors, the lawyers for Bales said Wednesday.

The review of Bales by Army doctors will start Sunday and could last three to seven days, attorney John Henry Browne said. Such reviews are aimed at determining a defendant's mental state at the time of the crime and competency to stand trial.

Bales is accused of murdering Afghan villagers, mostly women and children, during a pair of pre-dawn raids on March 11, 2011. Bales, who was on his fourth combat deployment, slipped away from his base in southern Afghanistan to attack two nearby villages and returned soaked in blood, prosecutors say.

He has not entered a plea. The Army is seeking the death penalty.

Bales' lawyers previously objected to the sanity review because the Army would not allow the proceedings to be recorded, would not let Bales have a lawyer present and would not agree to appoint a neuropsychologist expert in traumatic brain injuries to be involved.

They also objected because the "short-form" results of such exams often are provided automatically to military prosecutors, with the rest being turned over only if the accused raises mental health as a defense.

At a hearing in January, the judge ordered the sanity review to go forward. His written order later made clear that the prosecutors would not receive the short-form results, said Emma Scanlan, another lawyer for Bales.

"They're not going to get that information, which is why our client is agreeing to participate," Scanlan said.

Browne has previously said the defense team has obtained medical records indicating Bales had suffered from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, but he described those records as incomplete.

Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield, an Army spokesman at the base, confirmed that the sanity review will begin Sunday.

Last week, six Afghan civilians who are expected to testify at Bales' trial traveled to the military base in Washington state.

Among the visitors was Haji Mohammad Naim, who was shot and wounded during the massacre, said Lela Ahmadzai, an Afghan filmmaker who said she spoke with relatives of the victims recently.

Ahmadzai, who lives in Germany, marked this week's anniversary of the killings by releasing a web documentary about the attack, "Silent Night: The Kandahar Massacre," including interviews with some of the victims recorded in October.

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Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales Military Justice
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