FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – The lawyer for the Army staff sergeant suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians questioned Tuesday the quality of the evidence against his client and said he planned to travel to Afghanistan to gather his own.
John Henry Browne said he met with Robert Bales for 11 hours over two days at Fort Leavenworth, where his client is being held. He added that there was still a lot he didn’t know about the March 11 shootings.
“I don’t know about the evidence in this case. I don’t know that the government is going to prove much. There’s no forensic evidence. There’s no confessions,” Browne said outside his hotel near the post.
“I’m certainly not saying that we’re not taking responsibility for this in the right way, at the right time. But for now, I’m interested in what the evidence is,” he said. “It’s not like a crime scene in the United States.”
Browne said there were legal, social and political issues linked to the case and how it will be prosecuted. “The war’s on trial. I’m not putting the war on trial,” he said. “I’m not putting the war on trial, but the war is on trial.”
Bales, 38, has not been charged. Browne expects that he will be charged this week. The killings sparked protests in Afghanistan, endangered relations between the two countries and threatened to upend American policy over the decade-old war.
Browne met with his client behind bars for the first time Monday to begin building a defense.
On Tuesday, Browne described Bales as “a soldier’s soldier” who followed orders, including deploying to Afghanistan. Bales has been reported to have had financial troubles.
“That doesn’t mean anything. Sure, there are financial problems. I have financial problems. Ninety-nine percent of America has financial problem,” he said. “You don’t go kill women and children because you have financial problems.”