Report: Court martial date set for Afghan shooter

The pretrial hearing, scheduled for Nov. 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, will feature testimony from Afghan civilians who reportedly witnessed the shootings in March. 


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Half of the court martial, which is expected to last roughly two weeks, will be held in the evening so local witnesses can testify against Bales via teleconference from the U.S. air base in Kandahar, Lt. Col Larry Dangerfield told the The Seattle Times on Friday. 

Bales’s attorney, John Henry Browne, will travel to Afghanistan to conduct the cross-examination of the witnesses in person, according to Dangerfield. 

The 38-year-old Iraq war veteran is accused of leaving his outpost in Afghanistan on March 11 and going on a shooting spree in a nearby village that left 17 dead.

The Army officially charged Bales in March with 17 counts of murder as a result of the shootings. 

Aside from the murder counts, Bales was also charged with six counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault in the woundings of six other villagers during the incident, as well as dereliction of duty.

Browne argues that Bales suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has no recollection of the incident.

Bales had been in Afghanistan since December on his fourth combat tour in 10 years. He is currently being housed in the military’s maximum-security facility at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.

That affliction, including claims that Bales also suffered traumatic brain injury during his multiple tours in Iraq, might have contributed to the shootings, according to Browne. 

The incident prompted those inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill to revisit the issue of PTSD and the overall state of the U.S. military, whose members have been engaged in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade. 

Shortly after the shootings, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) pressed Army officials on how pervasive the cases of PTSD were among U.S. troops returning home from war.

“In light of all the tragedy we’ve seen stemming from untreated invisible wounds of war today, I’m sure you’d agree this is very concerning,” Murray said at the time. “I want to know if it’s system-wide.”

Army leaders are beginning to attach "embedded behavioral health" teams alongside Army brigade combat teams when they deploy, Army officials told reporters at the Pentagon in March. 

By being embedded, mental health professionals can develop a "habitual relationship" with unit members, in the hopes they will be more willing to seek help from the teams, according to service officials. 

That said, DOD claims "the science has not been able to identify" any clear links between PTSD, TBI and violent incidents like the shootings Bales is accused of, the officials added.