Bales gets life without parole; Afghan survivors say it’s not enough

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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.

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  • nolan

    Now why are they upset with the verdict? What did they expect to happen? Sure they dont have to accept his apology, but the verdict is as much as he could get considered he plead guilty. The victims families will never accept a punishment will be good enough for the loss of a loved one and I agree, but to say they have higher expectations of Americans, well we didnt expect them to run airplanes into our buildings, plant road side bombs to kill our troops, use suicie bombers, so expectations of Americans from another country well hello, we are paying to rebuild what you destroyed!!! Bales got a fair trial, got a fair sentence, leave it at that and go back home and mourn your loved ones!!

  • jeff

    Thank you for putting some context in this story. For all anyone knows, SSG Bales may have saved American lives. His command failed him!

  • Bev

    Yep, countless stories of Afghan farmers waving at our soldiers in the day time but at night are planting roadside bombs. How frustrating it must have been never getting to see your enemy and exact your revenge because we expected the soldiers to be politicians too.

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