Sanity hearing underway for man accused of Afghan mass murder

Mar 18, 2013, 6:04 AM | Updated: 7:03 am
Bales’ defense team has been fighting to prevent him from undergoing this process because a d...
Bales' defense team has been fighting to prevent him from undergoing this process because a defense lawyer will not be present during the questioning and it will not be videotaped. (AP Photo/File)
(AP Photo/File)

It’s been more than two years since a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier was accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians during a rampage in two small village. For the first time since, that soldier’s mental health is being evaluated by the military.

Military doctors and forensic psychologists sat down with Staff Sergeant Robert Bales over the weekend to begin what’s called a “sanity board.” It’s job is to determine Bales’ state of mind at the time of the attacks and to decide if he’s competent now to stand trial in his military court martial. The hearing began Sunday and is expected to last a few days.

Bales’ defense team has been fighting to prevent him from undergoing this process because a defense lawyer will not be present during the questioning and it will not be videotaped.

Stephen Carpenter is a former military attorney who said these boards can be very intense. “They will get specific with him,” said Carpenter. “They will ask specifically what it is that he recalls about the incidents. They’re going to get into the nitty-gritty with him about it.”

Two years has passed since the mass murder in Afghanistan. How can these experts determine someone’s state of mind at a point in time so long ago? “Bales’ memory of the events would, obviously, diminish,” said Carpenter. “I think that could certainly undercut some of the information that’s being provided to the ‘sanity board.'”

Carpenter also believes the passage of time could help Bales’ defense strategy. “It gives the defense somewhat of an excuse to explain away maybe some inconsistencies or some things that don’t make sense on Bales’ part,” he said.

This sanity board will likely last a few days and consist of questioning from the experts and a long multiple-choice test used to determine whether Bales is answering truthfully. “I think it’s a fair system,” said Carpenter. “I think the doctors are good doctors.”

But Carpenter shares the concerns raised by Bales’ defense team that the hearing should be videotaped and a defense attorney should be allowed in.

Bales’ statements at this hearing will not be able to be used against him during his court martial and the findings will only become available if his defense team chooses to raise a mental health defense.

The defense team says Bales’ suffered from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury during his multiple tours overseas. He was on his fourth deployment when the military says he slipped out of his base and killed 16 Afghan civilians. It also claims he had been drinking and taking steroids.

The Army is seeking the death penalty in the case. The trial is currently set to begin in September.

Local News

unemployment benefits...
Nicole Jennings

People quitting over vax mandate may qualify for unemployment benefits

Do people quitting their jobs over the vaccine mandate qualify for unemployment benefits? That all depends on a certain set of circumstances.
21 hours ago
covid memorial...
MyNorthwest Staff

King County councilmember proposes memorial for lives lost to COVID

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is proposing the creation of a public art memorial to honor those who lost their lives to COVID-19. 
21 hours ago
Kathryn Altena

Washington to participate in Great ShakeOut earthquake drill for 10th year

At 10:21 a.m. on Oct. 21 will be the annual Great ShakeOut earthquake and tsunami drill in Washington. Practice how you would drop, cover, and hold on.
21 hours ago
King County Metro...
Nick Bowman

King County reports 97% compliance with worker vaccine mandate

King County reported Tuesday that 97% of its employees have submitted paperwork in compliance with its vaccine mandate; 92% are fully vaccinated. 
21 hours ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Heavy rain, wind from tropical ‘superstorm’ headed to Northwest

A cyclone that began as a tropical superstorm is expected to reach waters off the coast of Washington state on Thursday.
21 hours ago
City Hall Park Seattle...
Nick Bowman

King County Council to forge ahead on bid to acquire troubled City Hall Park

King County Councilmembers voted 7-2 on Tuesday to approve legislation to explore options to assume control over Seattle's City Hall Park.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Sanity hearing underway for man accused of Afghan mass murder