Death penalty for Staff Sgt. Bales? Not likely.

ANNE FLAHERTY Associated Press Published:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the death penalty is possible if a U.S. military court finds an Army staff sergeant guilty of gunning down Afghan children and family members. But it isn't likely.

The U.S. military system has been slow to convict Americans, particularly service members, of war crimes. When it does happen, punishment can range from life in prison to simple house arrest.

In the case of Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the suspect in the March 11 Kandahar shootings, legal experts say he could face a lengthy prison sentence if convicted. But the experts say the military jury deciding his fate might well show some leniency. The last service member executed for a crime was killed in 1961.

.