Judge Orders Sanity Review For Bales

Jan 17, 2013

  The Army staff sergeant accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in an overnight rampage last March was arraigned in a military court room south of Tacoma Thursday. He could face death if found guilty.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales
Credit Courtesy Maj. Brent Clemmer

Attorneys for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales argued over how best to evaluate the mental health of their client. Bales' defense attorney says they’re unsure if they’ll pursue a mental health defense in the case.

But if they do, the judge has ordered that the soldier must undergo a so-called sanity board review. The review is conducted by a panel of psychiatrists or psychologists, often with specialized training in forensic psychiatry or psychology.

So far, Bales' attorneys have refused to let him take part in the review because the Army would not allow defense to be present or appoint an expert in traumatic brain injuries to the panel.

The panels are supposed to be neutral but, outside the courtroom, Bales' attorney John Henry Brown was skeptical.

“Keep in mind these doctors are not independent doctors these are doctors that work for the army and the army is trying to kill my client so we have some concerns about that," Brown says. 

The defense also expressed concern about what kind of information from that review would be provided to the prosecution. They argued that it could violate Bales right against self-incrimination under the fifth amendment of the constitution.

The judge didn’t immediately rule on the conditions of the sanity review or when prosecutors can have access to the results.

Meantime army prosecutors called for a June 10 trial date because of concerns over access to Afghan witnesses. Bales team called that unrealistic given the volume of documents and discovery they need to review.