Story Summary

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.

Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 9 updates

robert bales1JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD — The defense attorney for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the man convicted of killing 16 Afghan civilians in March 2012, requested the prosecution be taken off the case after they incorrectly received an unredacted sanity-board report that evaluated Bales’ mental health.

Attorney John Henry Browne said the report gave the prosecution an unfair advantage in the final phase of the case. Bales plead guilty to in June to killing the civilians during an alcohol-fueled rage.

On Wednesday, the judge denied Browne’s request. The judge submitted one sentence via email to Bales’ attorney at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, and gave no reason for his decision, Browne said. A change in prosecution could have set the case back weeks or even months if the judge had agreed with Browne.

Final arguments in the court martial begin on Aug. 19 and will determine whether or not Bales will spend the rest of his life behind bars or one day be eligible for parole.

 

Local News
08/13/13

Judge: I’ll rule soon on motion to dismiss Bales’ prosecutors

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD —  An Army judge said he’ll decide soon if he will remove prosecutors from the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty in June to killing 16 Afghan civilians last year.

robert-bales1His lawyers want to see the prosecution team taken off the case after, they say, the prosecutors incorrectly received an unredacted sanity-board report that evaluated Bales’ mental health.

“The only remedy  that makes any sense is to disqualify the government attorneys who saw it,” said Emma Scanlon, one of Bales’ lawyers.

She said she believes the report gave the prosecution an unfair advantage in the final phase of the case.

Bales pleaded guilty to killing the civilians in two Afghan villages March 2012 during an alcohol-fueled rage. His lawyers say he also suffers from post-ttaumatic stress disorder after four tours of combat duty.

Prosecutors told the judge exposure to the report shouldn’t mean automatic disqualification.  Capt. Chad Fisher said, “It has no effect on the government’s sentencing requests. That will rely on witnesses.”

A change in prosecution could set the case back weeks or even months if the judge agrees with Bales’ lawyers.  Final arguments in the sentencing phase of the court martial begin Aug. 19 and will determine whether or not Bales will spend the rest of his life behind bars or one day be eligible for parole.

robert bales1SEATTLE — With a sentencing hearing for his role in the murder of 16 Afghan civilians scheduled for Aug. 19, Sgt. Robert Bales’ attorneys have requested that Army prosecutors are removed from the case after they inadvertently received unredacted copies of Bales’ sanity-board report.

Attorney John Henry Browne, told the Seattle Times that he and his team have requested that the prosecutors are excused from the case after receiving the unredacted documents on Bales’ mental health. Browne told the paper the full report would give the prosecutors an “unfair advantage as they make their arguments in the final phase of the court-martial.”

“They are not supposed to get it; this was a serious mistake,” Browne told the Times.

For the complete Seattle Times story, go here.

Local News
06/06/13

Soldier’s murder case could lead to more PTSD defenses

SEATTLE — When Staff Sgt. Robert Bales admitted to murdering 16 Afghan civilians including several children, he still couldn’t tell the judge why.

robert bales1“I’ve asked myself that question a million times since then,” Bales said. “There is not a good reason in the world for doing the horrible thing I did.”

Bales did take responsibility for the murders in exchange for a plea deal that spares him the death penalty. But when he’s sentenced, his lawyers will bring up his mental status at the time of the killings.

“I think any panel can understand that Sgt. Bales is a person who would not have done this but for a set of conditions,” Emma Scanlan, Bales’ attorney, said.

Scanlan points to Bales’ four war zone deployments, a brain injury in combat, and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. That’s what the jury will hear about and it could give the soldier a chance at life with parole, meaning he could be out of prison in 10 years.

“They can understand that and they can decide that he deserves a chance,” Scanlan said. “It’s only a chance, but he deserves a chance to potentially someday be reunited with his family.”

With more than 200,000 soldiers diagnosed with PTSD, lawyers expect a lot more criminal cases using PTSD as a defense.

“It’s not a go-to defense, it’s the reality of having served our country,” Stephen Carpenter, a military defense lawyer, said.

Soldiers with PTSD can suffer flashbacks and outbursts of anger and violence.

On the same day Sgt. Bales admitted to the Afghan murders, an Iraq War vet in Spokane was being arraigned for murder. Jason Hart is accused of killing his girlfriend and placing her body in a tub full of acid.

His estranged wife said he had been diagnosed with PTSD and it will likely be used as part of his defense. It’s likely he won’t be the last to use PTSD as a defense.

“People who spend time outside the military before they enter, maybe they were good people,” Carpenter said. “And then as a result of them going down range they saw some horrible things, they developed PTSD, so it’s within that context that I think this issue will be played out over and over again.”

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales confessed in court Wednesday to killing 16 Afghan civilians, many of whom were women and children, in a plea deal that spares him the possibility of a death sentence.

With his wife sitting behind him, Bales pleaded guilty to 16 counts of murder.

The military judge accepted the plea deal, which means Bales now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, either with parole or without parole. That will be determined in the sentencing phase, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 19.

john henry browne bales

Attorney John Henry Browne speaks at a press conference following his client’s — Robert Bales — guilty plea.

Bales requested his sentencing jury be composed of one-third enlisted individuals.

The court went into recess at 9:15 a.m. to allow Bales to inspect a document outlining what happened the night of March 11, 2012, outside Camp Belambay in southern Afghanistan.

After the recess, the judge asked Bales why he wanted to kill his Afghan victims. Following a discussion with his attorney, John Henry Browne, Bales told the judge: “I’ve asked myself that question a million times since then and there is not a good reason in the world for doing the horrible thing I did.”

Some Afghan families of the victims have reportedly said that Bales should receive the death penalty and that a lesser sentence would be an unacceptable punishment for the crimes.

Prosecutors also brought forth some evidence that they said Bales may be leaving out of his statements, including a “tussle” with an elderly woman that reportedly took place prior to the killings.

In court, it was also noted that if Bales had been successful in killing all of his targets, there would have been 22 fatalities rather than 16. Bales admitted to the court that he intended to kill everyone he shot at. Prosecutors also said some of the bodies had been burned. He showed little emotion making this statement as his wife sat stoically behind him.

Bales told the court he did not recall setting any bodies on fire, but that he did remember a lantern and that he had matches in his pocket.

Browne told the court he wants to bring in experts to testify to Bales’ “diminished capacity” at his sentencing hearing. Such a strategy could potentially open the door to the possibility of parole for Bales.

One of Bales’ military lawyers, Maj. Greg Malson, said that if Bales were to be sentenced to life with parole, Bales would become eligible after serving 10 years in prison. But Malson said that would simply make him eligible, and his case would be reviewed on a yearly basis.

Another Bales’ attorney, Emma Scanlan, said the sergeant was using steroids that had been given him by U.S. Special Forces, who were in charge of the Afghan base where he was stationed, and that he had taken at least 7 ounces of alcohol the night of the massacre. She also noted he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after four tours of duty in war zones.

Bales told the court he currently takes Zoloft, an anti-depressant, but had no mental defect or issue that would keep him from understanding the court’s proceedings.

Guests
06/05/13

Analysis of Sgt. Bales’ guilty plea

Q13 FOX News

Robert BalesJOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD — Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is to plead guilty Wednesday to the killing of 16 Afghan civilians who were shot to death in their homes outside of a U.S. army outpost last year.

Bales, 39, will enter the plea Wednesday at a military court hearing at JBLM as part of an agreement in which the government will not seek the death penalty.

The plea must be approved by the military court.  Bales’ defense attorney said the agreement called for Bales to admit to the killings as charged and present a full accounting to the court of what happened on the night of March 11, 2012. Bales is accused of slipping into two villages outside Camp Belambay in southern Afghanistan and slaughtering the people inside.

A full sentencing hearing will be held in September, during which a military panel will determine whether Bales, a father of two from Lake Tapps, should be entitled to future parole. A conviction of premeditated murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

By Kim Murphy

Los Angeles Times

SEATTLE –Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has agreed to plead guilty to the killing of 16 Afghan civilians who were shot to death in their homes outside a U.S. Army outpost in a violent rampage his lawyers have said was brought on by stress fueled with alcohol and drugs.

Robert BalesBales, 39, will enter the plea June 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state as part of an agreement in which the government will not seek the death penalty, according to his lawyer, John Henry Browne.

“I didn’t think we’d be getting to this point, but if they take the death penalty off the table, we’re able to work it out,” Browne said in an interview.

The plea must be approved by the military court. Browne said the agreement called for Bales to admit to the killings essentially as charged and present a full accounting to the court of what happened on the night of March 11, 2012. Bales is accused of stealing into a series of residential compounds outside Camp Belambay in southern Afghanistan and slaughtering the people inside.

A full sentencing hearing will be held in September, during which a military panel will determine whether Bales, a father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., should be entitled to future parole. A conviction of premeditated murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

“There will be many, many mental health experts who will explain Robert’s state of mind and reasons why life with parole is appropriate,” Browne said.

Defense attorneys initially had considered mounting an insanity defense, but such cases are difficult to prove, especially in military court. Military legal analysts say there has never been a successful insanity defense in a military murder case.

Bales recently underwent a comprehensive mental health review by Army psychiatrists. Following the review, Browne and his co-counsel, Emma Scanlan, decided against trying to prove he was not mentally responsible for his crimes.

During his preliminary hearing, known as an Article 32 hearing, a parade of witnesses testified that Bales was seen returning to the Army compound with blood on his boots and clothing and as much as admitted that he had killed people that night outside the base.

“He said he’d just been to Al-Kozai, shot some people … shot some military-age males. And I said, ‘No you didn’t,’ ” Sgt. Jason McLaughlin testified.

Prosecutors linked DNA evidence at the crime scene to the staff sergeant and also connected his weapon to the shootings, which in addition to the 16 people dead, left six other people wounded.

Defense lawyers have said Bales suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after several extremely emotional incidents during his previous three combat deployments, including a bombing that blew the legs off a colleague during his fourth deployment, shortly before the killings. He also had a concussive head injury.

The defense has also argued that Bales was muddled as a result of being supplied by fellow soldiers with steroids and alcohol at the remote special operations base in southern Afghanistan.

“We’re going to be presenting all the mitigating evidence, and all the state of mind evidence, at the September hearing,” Browne said.

robert bales1JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD –  Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of killing more than a dozen Afghan civilians, will be back in court Tuesday morning.

Army doctors recently gave Bales a mental health evaluation to try to understand his state of mind at the time of the killings and to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

Prosecutors allege that Bales left the base he was stationed at and killed 16 people, mostly women and children, during predawn raids on March 11, 2012.  The prosecution and the defense will each present their case in the motion hearing.

Bales is to be court-martialed on premeditated murder and other charges in the attack on two villages in southern Afghanistan. The trial to scheduled to begin Sept. 3.

Advertisement