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Army Sgt. Robert Bales’ trial

The military court hearing for Army Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians, begins Monday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD — Disgraced former Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for massacring 16 Afghan civilians in their beds in middle of the night on March 11, 2012.

bales victimsAfghan survivors of the massacre said the punishment isn’t enough.

At his court-martial, Bales, 40, remained straight-faced as the sentence was handed down. His wife and mother cried upon hearing the ruling.

Bales had pleaded guilty in June to the killing of the civilians — mostly women and children — in order to avoid the death penalty.

Bales entered two Afghan villages alone in the Kandahar province and murdered 16 villagers, including four women and nine children.

In the closing arguments Friday, the prosecution said Bales lacks a moral compass, that he knew what he was doing and showed no mercy to his victims.

The defense argued the former staff sergeant suffers from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury and simply snapped.

It took less than two hours for the six-member military jury to decide Bales will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole.

Haji Wazir, an Afghan village elder who lost 11 members of his family in the massacre, was brought to JBLM to testify against Bales and after the sentencing said, “We wanted this murderer to be executed, but we didn’t get our wish. This murderer jumped into my house in the middle of the night … killed 11 members of my family and then burned them.

“I’m asking the average Americans here, if somebody jumps into your house in the middle of the night, kills 11 members of your family and tried to burn them, what kind of judgment would you be passing on that person?”

Bales took the stand Friday at the continuation of his sentencing hearing. Here is an overview of Friday’s proceedings:

[12:23] Witnesses and victims of the massacre said they are upset with the verdict and that Bales is a murderer and they do not accept his apology. “We have a higher expectations for Americans,” they said.

[11:17] The jury sentenced Bales to life in prison. He has been demoted to private and will not receive parole. He has also been dishonorably discharged from the military.

[11:12] — It appears the jury has a decision; they deliberated for one hour and 40 minutes.

[11:11] — Jury is expected to return shortly. We’re not sure if they have a decision on the sentencing, or if they are coming back for another reason.

[9:30] –  Jury heads to deliberation. It is unknown how long it will take them to decide on a sentence.

[9:28] – Judge discusses instructions for jury to determine appropriate sentence in the case.

[9:13 a.m] — Defense wrapped up their arguments. They said they’re not asking for Bales to be paroled today, they just want the option open in the future.

“Sgt. Bales made the decision to say to you, to the victims in this case, to the country of Afghanistan. …The soldiers in the United States Military. I’m wrong,” defense attorney John Henry Browne said.

[9:02 a.m.] – The prosecution attacked Bales’ defense, saying he doesn’t deserve mercy since he showed none for the victims. Army Prosecutor Col. Morse said, “He dares ask you for mercy, when he has shown none.” Said he should officially be known as “inmate” until the day he dies.

The prosecution showed gruesome pictures of the victims and said Bales didn’t suffer from PTSD, but was a cold-blooded killer and acted in calculating manner.

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:

bales[1:17 p.m.] Attorney John Henry Browne said that Bales’ testimony reflected that “he told the story the way he wanted to. Whether he changed minds or not, I don’t know.”

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.

Local News
08/22/13

Bales to take stand, talk about murders

JOINT BASE LEWIS McCHORD — Staff Sgt. Robert Bales could take the stand Thursday and apologize for his killings of 16 Afghan civicilan., Bales’ defense attorney John Henry Browne said.

Bales, 40, will not face cross examination from the prosecution since he is in the sentencing hearing phase of his trial.

Since his sentencing trial began Tuesday, jurors have heard dramatic testimony from witnesses and victims who survived Bales’ shooting rampage on March 11, 2012 when Bales murdered 16 Afghan civilians, including women and children.  Afghan villager Haji Wazir lost 11 members of his family, including his mother, wife and 6 children. He spoke Wednesday of losing his entire family.

“If someone loses a child, imagine how devastating that would be, I lost an entire family,” Wazir said.

Wazir described that the children’s bodies were also set on fire.

“I had a good life, a happy family life,” Wazir told the court.  Bales, he said, took that all away.

Bales Guilty Plea AnalysisBales pleaded guilty to the 16 murders in June.  Browne said Bales just lost control, snapping in a fit of rage.

“I don’t think anyone can say with a rational mind that Bob Bales didn’t snap, Browne said.  “I just don’t think you can argue that.”

Browne argued Bales suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and from a traumatic brain injury.  Bales was on his fourth combat deployment when he committed the murders. But according to the prosecution, Bales is a bitter man, upset with his life at home, in deep financial trouble and was passed over for promotion. The prosecution also said Bales has a hatred for the Afghan people.

Jurors also heard from Bales’ friends and relatives Wendesday, and they largely described him as a caring person who loved people. William Bales, Bales’ older brother, told the court, his sibling loved people and he could think of no better parent.Bob Durham, who lived next to Bales as he grew up in Nebraska, said Bales was like another member of the family. Durham broke down in tears on the stand describing Bales compassion and how, as a teenager, he helped him care for his developmentally disabled son.

Former NFL Star Marc Edwards also testified on behalf of Bales, calling him a “good friend” and a “great leader.”

“Bales did things when he was 14, 15, 16 that are amazing,” Browne said, Wednesday’s hearing.

Bales could be sentenced to life in prison, but the six-member Army jury could allow for parole upon.

Local News
08/21/13

Soldier in Afghan massacre called good father who ‘loved people’

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD — During the second day of a sentencing hearing for Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who has pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians, a jury heard more wrenching testimony from witnesses who survived the March 11, 2012, massacre in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan.

bales“If someone loses one child, imagine how devastating that would be,” Afghan villager Haji Wazir told the military jury at JBLM. “I lost an entire family.”

Bales, a married father of two, shot and killed 11 members of Wazir’s family, including his mother, wife, and six children. The children’s bodies were also set on fire.

“I had a good life, a happy family life,” Wazir told the court. Bales, he said, took that all away.

The American soldier, who turned 40 in June, has admitted going into two Afghan villages of Balandi and Alkozai and murdering 16 civilians, including several children.

“I don’t think anyone can say with a rational mind that Bob Bales didn’t snap,” said John Henry Browne, Bales’ attorney. “I just don’t think you can argue that.”

Browne blamed that breakdown on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), caused by four separate deployments to war zones.

Prosecutors contend Bales was frustrated with his life, was in a bad marriage, passed over for promotion, and drowning in debt before he took an assault rifle into those two villages.

On Wednesday, jurors also heard from witnesses who knew Bales before his time in war. They described a high school football star and class president who loved people and loved having a good time. Bales’ older brother, William Bales, told the court, “He loved people … no better father.”

Bob Durham, who lived next to Bales as he grew up in Nebraska, said Bales was like another member of the family. Durham broke down in tears on the stand describing Bales’ compassion and how, as a teenager, he helped him care for his developmentally disabled son.

Browne later said, “Bales did things when he was 14, 15, 16 that are amazing.”

That’s a far cry from what the adult Bales admitted doing last year in Afghanistan.

Bales is expected to take the stand Thursday or Friday and offer an apology to his victims.

He will be sentenced to life in prison, but the six-member Army jury could change that to life with the possibility of parole.

Local News
08/21/13

Day 2 of Bales’ sentencing hearing

bales1JOINT BASE LEWIS McCHORD — Dramatic testimony from witnesses in the trial for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is expected Wednesday as more Afghan victims taking the stand.

On Tuesday, Haiji Naim, an elder in one of the two small villages Bales attacked, testified that several members of his family were shot by Bales in March 2012. Bales pleaded guilty in June to murdering 16 Afghan civilians, including woman and children.

Naim flew several thousand miles to appear in person in court and described how he was shot in the face by Bales. “This bastard stood right in front of me,” Naim said. “I wanted to ask him, what did I do?  And he shot me.”

Prosecutor Lt. Col. Jay Morse told jurors that Bales, “went into the village with the intention of murdering any Afghan he saw, regardless of age or gender.”

One of the victims, a 12-year old boy, Sadiquallh, testified in court.  He told jurors, “I think I fainted because when I woke up I heard screaming.”

Prior to the witness testimony, the prosecution explained in detail what led Bales to take the lives of so many civilians. They painted a picture of a soldier frustrated with his life at home, upset at being passed over for promotion and in dire financial straits. Prosecutors said the night of the attacks, Bales was drinking heavily and was taking steroids, telling a superior he had “bad kids, an ugly wife and was not anxious to make it back home to see them.”

The jury also heard a recording of Bales talking to his wife on the phone and it sounded like the two were joking about the murder case against him.

The defense said Bales suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Bales was on his fourth combat deployment when he committed the murders. With his guilty plea, Bales will not get the death penalty but faces life in prison. His defense team is fighting for Bales to be eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 20 years.

Local News
08/20/13

Afghan villagers give emotional testimony against Sgt. Bales

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD — Haiji Naim, an elder in one of the small afghan villages where Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales massacred 16 Afghan civilians last year, testified Tuesday that he and several members of his family were shot in the middle of the night by the lone rampaging American soldier.

balesNaim was brought to Joint Base Lewis-McChord to testify at the sentencing phase of Bales’ trial. The 39-year-old father of two has pleaded guilty to 16 murder charges.

Naim angrily described how he was shot in the face by Bales.

“This bastard stood right in front of me,” said Naim. “I wanted to ask him, what did i do? And he shot me.”

Prior to  hearing wrenching testimony from Afghan witnesses, jurors were told by Army prosecutors what led Bales to murder 16 afghan civilians in the middle of the night.

They painted a picture of a soldier frustrated with an overweight wife, upset over being passed over for promotion and struggling in a desperate financial situation.  Prosecutors said the night of the attacks, Bales was on steroids and drinking heavily, telling a superior, he had, “bad kids, an ugly wife and was not anxious to make it back home to see them.”

Prosecutor Lt. Col. Jay Morse told jurors Bales “went into the village with the intention of murdering any Afghan he saw regardless of age or gender.”

When it was done, 16 were dead, including several children.  A 12-year-old Afghan boy, Sadiqullah, was also shot that night. He also traveled to JBLM to testify, telling jurors, “I think I fainted because when i woke up I heard screaming.”

The jury also heard a recording of Bales talking to his wife on the phone in which it sounded like they were joking about the murder case against him.

The defense has said Bales suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after four deployments in a war zone.

In the next few days, Bales’ lawyers will call friends and family to testify in his behalf.

With Bales’ guilty plea, capital punishment was taken off the table.  The jury will decide whether Bales goes to prison for life without parole, or life with the possibility of parole, which would make him eligible for freedom after 20 years.

bales1

 

Local News
08/20/13

Bales faces witnesses to attack in sentencing trial

photo 2JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD — Nine Afghan villagers — including some who were shot — could talk this week in Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ sentencing hearing regarding his shooting in the Kandahar Province in 2012.

As of 10:07 a.m. Tuesday, prosecutors and defense attorneys were interviewing potential jurors in Bales’ sentencing. At least two of the jurors were in Afghanistan on March 11, when Bales’ went on a violent shooting spree and killed 16 Afghan civilians.  The 39-year-old Bales has pleaded guilty to the murders. Since Bales’ trial is occurring in military court, all of the potential jurors are active-duty military members. Between five and 10 senior soldiers are expected to serve as jurors.

Some of the potential jurors admitted to the judge that they believe PTSD played a part in Bales’ rampage.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported Tuesday that no female victims were flown to the U.S. to testify. At least two young boys made the trip, some of whom received medical attention from NATO bases following the shooting. Others who could take the stand include Bales’ wife, fellow infantrymen, relatives and high school teammates of Bales, the News Tribune reported.

Defense attorneys are expected to rely heavily on Bales’ reported mental state at the time of the shootings, saying alcohol and stress played a large role in the killings.

Local News
08/20/13

Bales’ sentencing hearing enters second day

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD — It’s now day two of the sentencing phase for Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales who massacred 16 Afghan civilians in their villages last year.

This week, the prosecution might play a two hour taped conversation between Bales and his wife, the News Tribune reports. The prosecution alleges the couple can be heard laughing over at least one of the criminal charges against Bales. On top of that, the prosecution says they have another taped conversation where the couple discusses a possible book deal for Bales wife.

The defense argues the tape needs to be heard in court to put the conversation in context.

The prosecution said several Afghan villagers will be flown into JBLM to possibly testify during Bales’ sentencing hearing or appear via video conference.

robert bales1In June, Bales pleaded guilty to 30 charges. His plea deal took the possibility of the death penalty off the table. Now, it will be decided whether Bales will serve a life sentence or be eligible for parole.

One of the motions entered in court Monday was that Bales not be considered for parole until after he had served at least 20 years in prison.

In March 2012, Bales left his combat outpost twice and went on a shooting rampage that resulted in the death of 16 civilians, including many women and children.

Last week, Bales’ defense team tried to get the prosecution removed from the case. The defense argued that the prosecution obtained a copy of an unredacted mental health evaluation of Bales that was performed shortly after the shootings. The defense said the prosecution would have an unfair advantage in the final phase of the case, but the judge denied the motion.

Bales is a member of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He was deployed on his fourth combat mission at the time of the murders.

robert-bales1JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD — The sentencing phase began Monday for Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales who massacred 16 Afghan civilians in their villages last year.

The prosecution said several Afghan villagers will be flown into JBLM to possibly testify during Bales’ sentencing hearing or appear via video conference.

In June, Bales pleaded guilty to 30 charges. His plea deal took the possibility of the death penalty off the table. Now, it will be decided whether Bales will serve a life sentence or be eligible for parole.

One of the motions entered in court Monday was that Bales not be considered for parole until after he had served at least 20 years in prison.

In March 2012, Bales left his combat outpost twice and went on a shooting rampage that resulted in the death of 16 civilians, including many women and children.

Last week, Bales’ defense team tried to get the prosecution removed from the case. The defense argued that the prosecution obtained a copy of an unredacted mental health evaluation of Bales that was performed shortly after the shootings. The defense said the prosecution would have an unfair advantage in the final phase of the case, but the judge denied the motion.

Bales is a member of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He was deployed on his fourth combat mission at the time of the murders.

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