U.S. soldier guilty of Afghan murders to be sentenced
Monday, August 19, 2013 - 00:31
Aug. 20 - Sentencing proceedings begin for U.S. Army Sergeant Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty in June to killing of 16 Afghan civilians. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: A U.S. army soldier who pleaded guilty in June to killing 16 Afghan civilians appeared in a military court Monday (August 19) ahead of proceedings this week that will determine whether his life sentence will come with the possibility of parole. Some of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales' surviving Afghan victims will testify in the sentencing portion of the case, which is set to begin with jury selection on Tuesday. Under a plea agreement that accompanied his guilty plea, Bales will be spared the death penalty. He could be eligible for parole after 20 years, less time already served and credit for good behavior. In a hearing to establish ground rules for the roughly week-long sentencing proceedings, the judge, Army Colonel Jeffery Nance, asked Bales whether he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea in light of possible misinformation about the length of time before he could be eligible for parole. Bales said he did not. "I'm just trying to do the right thing," he said. Bales attorneys are poised to argue that post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury were factors in the killings, while prosecutors hope to show that he engaged in a pattern of bad behavior that predated his multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Prosecutors said they intend to play for jurors taped phone conversations between an incarcerated Bales and his wife Kari laughing about the charges leveled against him and discussing a possible book deal for her. After defense lawyers argued that those discussions and others that prosecutors intend to use must be heard in context, the judge ruled that the full phone conversations, totaling over two hours, will be played for the jury. The defense also objected to the prosecution calling as an expert witness an Afghan man who has interviewed survivors of the rampage and family members of victims. The victims "are capable of speaking for themselves," said Emma Scanlan, Bales' civilian attorney. Nance said he would permit the expert to testify in general terms about how traumatic events and their aftermaths are dealt with in Pashtun culture but would allow "no speculation about the specific impact on these specific victims." Bales pleaded guilty in June to walking off his base in Afghanistan's Kandahar province before dawn on March 11, 2012, and killing 16 unarmed civilians, most of them women and children, in attacks on their family compounds. The slayings marked the worst case of civilian slaughter blamed on a single, rogue U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War and further strained U.S.-Afghan relations after more than a decade of conflict in that country. Bales, a decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, acknowledged the killings upon pleading guilty in June and told the court there was "not a good reason in this world" for his actions.
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