Sgt. Bales to get formal murder charges

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is seen in this undated photo. Bales is being held in the death of 16 Afghan civilians on March 11, 2012

(CBS News) THE PENTAGON - The American soldier accused of going on a shooting rampage in Afghanistan nearly two weeks ago was to be formally charged with murder Friday.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was expected to be handed a charge sheet in the prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. officially accusing him of 17 counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault.

His attorney says Bales has no memory of the March 11 rampage in which he allegedly walked off a combat outpost in Kandahar province, shot and killed 17 people - including children - then returned to the base.

The evidence of what happened is there for all to see. Whether prosecutors can turn it into a conviction that would merit the death penalty is likely to take years to determine.

Prepared by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, the charges first have to be signed out by Bales' commanding officer in Afghanistan, then transmitted to Fort Leavenworth for Bales to sign.

After that, it will be presented to his attorney, John Henry Brown, who seems to be building a defense around the mental and physical toll taken by Bales' four combat tours.

According to Browne, Bales was involved in a total of nine roadside bombings and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but Army mental health experts say there is no scientific evidence PTSD can lead to acts of violence.

Browne says he is concerned Bales could try to harm to himself and that he is under 24-hour watch at Leavenworth.

Bales was allowed to talk by phone with his wife for the first time Wednesday night, and we can only imagine what that conversation was like.

To see Mark Strassmann's full report, click on the video in the player above.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.