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Army Sgt. Robert Bales' lawyer questions evidence in Afghanistan killings

NBC's John Yang reports.

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – The lawyer for Robert Bales, the Army staff sergeant suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians, says U.S. authorities lack proof of what occurred that fateful night.

John Henry Browne on Tuesday questioned the quality of the evidence against his client and said he planned to travel to Afghanistan to gather his own.


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 in two Afghan villages.

"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 told reporters he expected his client, a 38-year-old four-tour combat veteran from Washington state, to be charged with "homicide and a bunch of other charges" on Thursday. He added that the case could stretch over two years.

The village killings sparked violent protests in Afghanistan, endangered relations between the two countries and threatened to upend American policy over the decade-old war.

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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 despite not wanting to go. 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 problems," he said. "You don't go kill women and children because you have financial problems."

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Browne said Bales’ recollection of what happened the night of March 11 is spotty.

“If you woke up and didn’t realize what you had done last night and people were telling you that you had done some really awful things, and you have no memory of that -- that kinds of gives you an idea of what I’m talking about,” Browne told NBC News’ John Yang in a separate interview.

Browne said it’s too early to say how he plans to defend Bales but made clear his client won’t be the only one on trial.

“I think the war is on trial. I think the war should be on trial. And I’m hoping that the war will be in trial,” he told NBC.

The Associated Press, Reuters and NBC News' John Yang contributed to this story.

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