VIDEO: Suspect in Afghan massacre settling into pre-trial life at Fort Leavenworth
The U.S. military is moving forward, if slowly, to beging judicial proceedings against Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the Washington-based soldier who is accused of shooting and killing 16 Afghan civilians earlier this month. He's at an Army prison in Kansas as the process moves ahead.
Robert Bales, the Army staff sergeant accused of massacring 16 Afghan civilians, is being integrated into life at the correctional facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
That's the word from post spokeswoman Rebecca Steed, according to the Associated Press. Bales was delivered to Leavenworth last Friday after being confined in Kuwait first.
"He's being treated just as every other pre-trial soldier or servicemember who comes through the Joint Regional Correctional Facility," Steed said. "He's begun his in-processing. That's been put slightly on-hold as he meets with his lawyers, but that will resume probably mid-week, or whenever he's done meeting with his attorneys."
Fort Leavenworth is home to two military prisons, as well as the civilian U.S. Penitentiary. Fort Leavenworth's other military prison, the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, is the military's only maximum security prison and where service members on death row serve out their sentence. The civilian U.S. Penitentiary, which while on the fort's property is administered by the civilian U.S. Bureau of Prisons, was home to Michael Vick when he was serving his sentence for dog fighting. Steed said the prisons are no strangers to high profile cases and prisoners necessitating high levels of security.
"They're very professional and highly trained, and that may be one reason why they're sending more pre-trial service members to this location," she said.
Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne, told reporters that during their meeting, Bales said he didn't remember any of the incidents in question.
"That doesn't mean he has amnesia," he said.
Bales is being kept in solitary confinement for the time being, Reuters said, and formal charges are yet to be filed.
In an article in Tuesday's New York Times, experts on military law sketched out what they say will be a long and winding road to justice. Once formal charges are filed, which should happen soon, the process moves on to an Article 32 hearing, where prosecutors must present sufficient evidence to convene a courts-martial. Only after the Article 32 hearing, the Times said, can officials determine whether to seek the death penalty.
If that's the case, the trial can be expected to drag on for years. No U.S. service member has been executed since 1961, though six people, all men, are currently sitting on death row awaiting execution. Three of them were convicted in the 1980s.
According to the Times, 44 U.S. troops have been tried killing civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan, with 30 of them convicted of some homicide charge. Another six were convicted of lesser offenses and eight were acquitted. None of the six men on death row were convicted of killing civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather of killing U.S. civilians or other U.S. soldiers and airmen.