FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The lawyer for the Army staff sergeant accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting rampage met his client for the first time Monday and said the solider has a sketchy memory of the night of the massacre.
Lawyer John Henry Browne said Robert Bales remembers some details from before and after the killings, but little or nothing from the time the military believes he went on a shooting spree through two Afghan villages.
"He has some memory of some things that happened that night. He has some memories of before the incident and he has some memories of after the incident. In between, very little," Browne told the Associated Press by telephone from Fort Leavenworth, where Bales is being held.
Pressed on whether Bales can remember anything about the shootings, Browne said, "No," but added, "I haven't gotten that far with him yet." In an earlier interview with CBS News, Browne said unequivocally that Bales couldn't remember the shootings.
Bales, 38, has not been charged yet in the March 11 shootings, though charges could come 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 said he and Bales, who is being held in an isolated cell at the military prison, met for more than three hours in the morning at Fort Leavenworth. Browne, co-counsel Emma Scanlan and Bales were expected to talk again in the afternoon.
"What's going on on the ground in Afghanistan, you read about it. I read about it. But it's totally different when you hear about it from somebody who's been there," Browne told the Associated Press by telephone during a lunch break. "It's just really emotional."
At their meeting, Browne said Bales clarified a story, provided initially by the soldier's family, about the timing of a roadside bomb that blew off the leg of one of Bales' friends. It was two days before the shooting, not one, and Bales didn't see the explosion, just the aftermath, Browne said.
The details of the blast could not be immediately confirmed.
Military officials have said that Bales, after drinking on a southern Afghanistan base, crept away to two villages overnight, shooting his victims and setting many of them on fire. Nine of the dead were children and 11 belonged to one family.