Bales Hearing Ends With Guilty Plea, Avoids Death Penalty

By Patricia Murphy

In a deal that will spare him the death penalty, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has pleaded guilty to 16 counts of premeditated murder while deployed to Afghanistan. A judge at Joint Base Lewis McCord accepted Bales plea Wednesday afternoon. The penalty phase of the trial is set to begin in August.

Bales was composed as a judge read through the charges. His voice broke briefly as he recounted his specific actions the night last march when he slipped away from his post in Kandahar Province on two occasions --   killing 16 civilians  and wounding 6 others. Most of the victims were women and children. Some of the bodies were burned.

When asked by the judge why he committed the murders, Bales answered: “Sir I’ve asked that question a million times since then. There’s not a good reason in the world for why I did the horrible things I did.”

The proceedings shed very little light on Bales’ motives that night. And Bales, under questioning by the judge, was careful not to elaborate on the specifics. His attorneys have indicated that they will provide mitigating circumstances for Bales actions during the penalty phase of the trial.
Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Bales’ attorney Emma Scanlon gave some indication of what some of those mitigating circumstances might be.

“He was taking steroids that were given to him by special forces. We know that he had drunken at least 7oz of hard alcohol and we know that he was taking substance with ephedrine in it. We know all of those things to be true as does the government," Scanlon said. "You take that with somebody on their fourth deployment and the stresses of combat and we get in some part to the situation we’re in today.”
The slayings last year drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan. The news of the possible plea deal had angered victims’ family members who wanted Bales tried in Afghanistan and hanged.
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