JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD — Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who has pleaded guilty to the murder of 16 Afghan civilians, took the stand Thursday at his sentencing hearing. Here is an overview of the proceedings:
Browne also confirmed that the Afghan witnesses/victims are still on the JBLM base, but chose not to be in court for Bales’ apology.
[12:27 p.m.] Bales’ defense team said they are not prepared for final arguments today, so it looks like it will be pushed to tomorrow.
[11:45 a.m.] Jurors break for lunch and will begin deliberating soon. Bales will receive a life sentence, but jurors could decide to give him a chance at parole.
[11:35 a.m.] ”I love the Army,” Bales said. “I’ve stood next to some really good guys, some real hereos. I can’t say I’m sorry to those guys enough.”
He did not go on to give much of a description as to what led to the attacks on the villages. He also didn’t go into what happened during the attacks.
Bales then broke down when describing how his daughter chocked on some food and he thought she might die and said it was the “closest pain I can get to to try to understand what they (the victims) are going through.”
“I think about them (the victims) every time I look at my own children,” he said.
[11:27 a.m.] Bales apologizes to his family, friends and fellow soldiers. “I’m sorry I disgraced you, sorry I let you down,” he said.
When asked by his lawyer what he would like to say, Bales began crying and said. “What I did was an act of cowardice. I’m sorry, I’m truly sorry. I murdered their family. If I could bring their family members back I would in a heartbeat.”
Bales also admitted that he was responsible for what happened in the village.
[11:22] Bales said he fear was constant. “In my mind, I saw threats everywhere.”
[11:16 a.m.] Bales also admits to drinking alcohol, even though it was against regulations in the combat zone.
[11:14 a.m.] Bales admits to taking steroids while he was in Afghanistan. Said it was “stupid, disgraceful — it was a mistake.”
[11 a.m.] Bales said he became mad a trivial things, like doing the dishes. “I was mad at myself for being mad” and said that “you can’t flush it” — referring to combat memories — and “start over.”
[10:56 am.] Bales takes the stand and says he’s nervous. He testifies that when he returned from Iraq he was angry and that “it was hard, it didn’t feel right and I didn’t really have a reason to be angry.” He said he suffered from headaches, drank a lot of alcohol and took sleeping pills. “Normal life became hard,” he said.
[10: 44 a.m.] Defense team said that Bales will be their last and final witness — a break from yesterday’s statement that there would be between three and 10 doctor’s testifying about Bales’ mental health.
[10:42 a.m.] Prosecutors bring up that Bales had a DUI that resulted in his arrest and that he lied about this criminal past on his enlistment documents.
[10:40 a.m.] Some of Bales’ commanders and fellow soldiers testify about the constant attack they were under during stints in Iraq, including gunfire and explosives. After one particularly grisly battle, Bales saw civilans, including children, who had been killed. He also had to retrieve body parts of fellow soldiers who had been killed by explosive devices. Bales said he thinks about it every day.
[10:05 a.m.] Defense attorneys painting picture of Bales as a dedicated soldier who went out of his way to help people. Attorneys content that Bales snapped when he attacked Afghan civilians and that it was caused by PTSD and four war-zone deployments. They also hinted at the horrors Bales witnessed during his combat duties.
[10:04 a.m.] Bales’ former team leader in Iraq said Bales had a “really good work ethic, really cared about his guys.”
[10:03 a.m.] Bales’ commander said that when he heard about the attacks on civilians, he “had to sit down and have a glass of scotch.”
[9:01 a.m.] Bales’ commander in Iraq said Bales was a great leader and “stood out and had a real positive attitude.”
[8:57 a.m.] Edwards calls Bales his best friend to this day. He said Bales was a natural leader. He also said he had not spoken to Bales since he left for Afghanistan.
[8:56 a.m.] Marc Edwards, former NFL star, takes the stand to testify on behalf of Bales. They played high school football together and are friends.