Staff Sergeant Robert Bales' arraignment in a military court room south of Tacoma marked the start of a court martial that could potentially end in a death sentence.
That possibility, coupled with the sheer volume of documents in the case, was the basis for the defense team’s suggestion that the case be tried in May 2014.
Prosecutors, however, argue that waiting too long jeopardizes the government’s right to a fair trial, and that American troop withdrawal will make it harder to get witnesses from Afghanistan to the U.S. They also note that two witnesses living in volatile parts of the country have already been killed in separate attacks.
Speaking with reporters outside the court room, Bales' attorney, John Henry Brown, took issue with that approach.
“You heard the prosecution talking about two witnesses being killed. Well guess who killed them? The United States. They were both on a list of insurgents and they were both killed by the United States," Brown says.
The judge in the case did not immediately decide on a trial date. He did, however, rule that if Bales' defense team plans to present a mental health defense, he must go before a so-called sanity review board to determine his mental state.
Bales deferred to enter a plea. He’s not required to under military court rules.
Copyright 2013 KUOW