A military jury sentenced Robert Bales, the Army Staff Sergeant who went on a killing spree while stationed in Afghanistan that left 16 civilians dead, to life in prison without parole today. In June, Bales pleaded guilty to charges of premeditated murder in order to avoid the death sentence. This week, a military jury was asked to determine if Bales would eligible for parole.
Yesterday, Bales apologized for what he called “an act of cowardice,” but he did not explain the reason behind the massacre. He said that, given the chance, he would bring back the lives of victims “in a heartbeat,” adding that “I’m truly, truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away. I can’t comprehend their loss. I think about it every time I look at my kids.” He also expressed a hope that his words would be translated for the nine survivors who testified against him, one of whom, Haji Mohammad Wazir, lost eleven members of his family, including his mother, his wife, and six of his seven children.
Describing another killing, he said he “went to the nearby village of Alkozai. While inside a compound in Alkozai, I observed a female I now know to be Na’ikmarga. I formed the intent to kill Na’ikmarga, and I did kill Na’ikmarga by shooting her with a firearm. This act was without legal justification, sir.”
Defense lawyers tried to argue that Bales was a loving father suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after multiple deployments in Afghanistan. He was serving his fourth combat deployment when he left Camp Belambay in the dead of night and brutally attacked two villages.
When he returned to camp, he showed another soldier a picture of a deceased girl’s bloodied corpse and said she had died where she felt safest, in the arms of her father.
In closing arguments, Lt. Col. Jay Morse asked the jury to ensure that Bales was never released from prison. “In just a few short hours, Sgt. Bales wiped out generations,” he said. “Sgt. Bales dares to ask you for mercy when he has shown none.”
Video of a reaction from family members of his victims can be found below: