SEATTLE (AP) — The military judge overseeing the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales said Thursday that he will require Bales to undergo an official review of his sanity before he can present any mental health defense to charges of massacring Afghan civilians.
Bales deferred entering a plea Thursday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to 16 counts of premeditated murder and other charges related to a nighttime attack on two villages last March.
But the judge took up arguments over whether Bales can present a mental health defense or testimony from mental health experts, given that he has not yet participated in a "sanity board" review.
The judge said Bales needs to participate if he wants to present a mental health defense, but he has made no decisions about the conditions of that review and what information from it is turned over to prosecutors.
Prosecutors say Bales, a father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., had been drinking early last March 11 before slipping away from his remote outpost in southern Afghanistan to carry out the attack. Nine children were among the dead, and some of the bodies were burned — slayings which drew such outrage that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in the country.
Bales was on his fourth deployment and may have been suffering from a traumatic brain injury, his lawyers argue.
They have criticized the base at Camp Belambay where Bales was stationed, saying that Special Forces members there gave him banned substances including alcohol, Valium and steroids, and insist that by seeking the death penalty against Bales the Army is ignoring its own responsibility for sending him to war.
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