A general court martial may be a long way off for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the accused Afghan village mass murderer from Joint Base Lewis McChord. But if and when the time comes that the Army puts his client on trial, says Seattle attorney John Henry Browne, he'll put the Army's war on trial.
As for the Army's case against Bales, Browne summed it up thusly for Reuters: "I'm very concerned now they don't have much proof of anything."
So much for our suspicions earlier this week that Browne was toning down his rhetoric after telling the Weekly "the government is pissed" at him for calling press conferences and giving national TV interviews.
Browne also said he plans a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan to question witnesses and gather evidence to defend Bales, 38, who is being held at a Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, military prison for the 3/11 massacre of 16 villagers, mostly women and children.
The attorney who once defended serial killer Ted Bundy met with Bales for 11 hours over the past couple days and left wondering if "the government is going to prove much. There's no forensic evidence. There's no confessions," he said.
Bales, who lost part of a foot in combat and suffered a head injury in a vehicle accident, was a "soldier's soldier," said Browne, who undertook three deployments to Iraq since joining the service shortly after 9/11 and was sent on his fourth, to Afghanistan, in December:
He did not want to go over there but he did what he was told. He has never said anything about "poor little me", which I get from my clients way too often. His first questions were about the safety and security of his family.
Browne expect Bales to be formally charged tomorrow with "homicide and a bunch of other charges" and predicted it would likely take two years before the sergeant goes to court. If there is no plea deal, Bales would first appear for an Article 32 hearing - to decide if the case merits a trial - followed by a general court martial to determine guilt, then a sentencing phase.
Earlier this week military officials said the case will be heard "somewhere in the United States" - possibly Lewis-McChord - and that witnesses might be flown in from Afghanistan.
The Army prosecuted 44 soldiers for murder or manslaughter of civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan from 2001 to 2011; 30 were convicted of some form of homicide, six were convicted of other offenses and eight were acquitted, the New York Times notes.
No one has been executed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice since 1961, when John Arthur Bennett, an epileptic black soldier with a family history of mental illness, was hanged at Fort Leavenworth after being convicted of rape.