US soldier faces death penalty over 16 Afghan killings

Started by turboprinz, November 06, 2012, 05:43:26 PM

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US military prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for a soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers.
Updated: 15:20, Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is alleged to have carried out the killings when he ventured out of his camp on two revenge-fuelled drunken forays earlier this year.

Lead prosecutor US Lieutenant Colonel Jay Morse told a preliminary hearing he would present evidence proving "chilling premeditation" on the part of Sgt Bales.

The soldier is a decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The shootings of mostly women and children in Afghanistan's Kandahar province in March marked the worst case of civilian deaths blamed on an individual US soldier since the Vietnam War.

Sgt Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder as well as charges of assault and wrongfully possessing and using steroids and alcohol while deployed.

Lt Col Morse said he was submitting a "capital referral" in the case, requesting that Sgt Bales be executed if convicted.

The hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state is expected to last two weeks and includes witness testimony from Afghanistan carried by live video, including testimony from villagers and Afghan soldiers.

At the end, military commanders will decide whether there is sufficient evidence for Sgt Bales to stand trial by court martial.

Sgt Bales, dressed in camouflage army fatigues with his head shaven, embraced his wife in court before the hearing began.

He then sat silently watching the proceedings from the defence table as Lt Col Morse summarised the prosecution's account of the events of 10-11 March.

The court heard that Sgt Bales had been drinking with two fellow soldiers before he left his base, Camp Belambay, and went to a village where he committed the first killings.

Sgt Bales then returned to the camp and told a drinking buddy, Sergeant Jason McLaughlin: "I just shot up some people," before leaving for a second village and killing more people.

Prosecutors showed a video shot by night-vision camera from a surveillance balloon over the camp, showing a figure they identified as Sgt Bales walking back to the post wearing a dark blue bed sheet or throw rug tied around his neck like a cloak.

Several witnesses from the camp said Sgt Bales had been aggrieved over the lack of action over an improvised explosive device attack on a patrol near the camp several days earlier, in which one US soldier lost the lower part of a leg.

Prosecutors said Sgt Bales had been armed with a rifle, a pistol and a grenade launcher on the night in question, and that the killings took place over a five-hour period in two villages.

The dead included members of four families, most shot in the head.

John Henry Browne, Sgt Bales' civilian lawyer, has suggested the accused may not have acted alone and may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The shootings highlighted discipline problems among US soldiers from Lewis-McChord, which was also the home base of four enlisted men from the former 5th Stryker Brigade who were convicted or pleaded guilty to murder or manslaughter over three killings of unarmed Afghan civilians in 2010.
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U.S. Army will seek death penalty against soldier accused of massacring 16 Afghan villagers
Dec 19, 2012 2:03 PM ET

The U.S. Army said Wednesday it will seek the death penalty against the soldier accused of massacring 16 Afghan villagers during pre-dawn raids in March.

The announcement followed a pretrial hearing last month for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39, who faces premeditated murder and other charges in the attack on two villages in southern Afghanistan.

Prosecutors said Bales, who grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, Ohio, left his remote base in southern Afghanistan early on March 11, attacked one village, returned to the base, and then slipped away again to attack another nearby compound. Of the 16 people killed, nine were children.

No date has been set for Bales' court martial, which will be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle.

His civilian lawyer, John Henry Browne, did not immediately return an email seeking comment Wednesday. But on Tuesday, he told The Associated Press that he met with Army officials last week to argue that Bales should not face the possibility of the death penalty, given that Bales was serving his fourth deployment in a war zone.

Bales' defense team has said the government's case is incomplete and outside experts have said a key issue going forward will be to determine whether Bales, who served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

An Army criminal investigations command special agent testified at the pretrial hearing that Bales tested positive for steroids three days after the killings, and other soldiers testified that Bales had been drinking the evening of the massacre.

Prosecutors, in asking for a court-martial trial, have pointed to statements Bales made after he was apprehended, saying that they demonstrated "a clear memory of what he had done, and consciousness of wrong-doing."

Several soldiers testified at the hearing that Bales returned to the base alone just before dawn, covered in blood, and that he made incriminating statements such as, "I thought I was doing the right thing."

The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.
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Fort Hood Suspect Still Faces Possible Execution
FORT HOOD, Texas January 30, 2013 (AP)

The Army psychiatrist charged in the Fort Hood shooting rampage still faces the death penalty if convicted in the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, was expected to rule later on Maj. Nidal Hasan's request to plead guilty to 13 counts of premeditated murder in the 2009 attack on the Texas Army post. However, Army rules prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea in a death penalty case, so her earlier ruling Wednesday indicates he would not be allowed to plead guilty as long as that punishment option remains on the table.

Defense attorneys argued that Hasan should be spared a possible death sentence because the military justice system's process for deciding capital cases is inconsistent. They also claim Fort Hood's commanding general was not impartial when he decided in July 2011 that Hasan would face the death penalty and had been influenced by high-ranking government officials.

Hasan, 42, paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police the day of the rampage, sat in a wheelchair next to his attorneys with a thick black beard during the first of three scheduled days of pretrial proceedings.

The American-born Muslim also is charged with 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. He faces execution or life in military prison without parole if convicted. A trial date has not been set.

Witnesses have said that a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform opened fire after shouting "Allahu Akbar!" -- or "God is great!" in Arabic -- inside a crowded medical building on Nov. 5, 2009, where deploying and returning soldiers received vaccines and other tests. Hasan was also about to deploy to Afghanistan.

Hasan's trial was to start in August but was put on hold when he appealed the former judge's order saying his beard would be forcibly shaved before the court-martial unless he shaved it. Although facial hair violates Army rules, Hasan first showed up in court in June with a beard, later saying it was required by his Muslim faith.

After a few rounds of appeals, the military's highest appeals court in December tossed out the judge's order and removed him from the case, saying that he appeared to show bias against Hasan in some instances. Osborn then was appointed to oversee the case.

In December, during Osborn's first pretrial hearing in the case, she told Hasan that she won't hold the beard against him but that military jurors might. Jurors likely would be told not to consider Hasan's appearance when deciding on a verdict.

Osborn also ruled Wednesday that she doesn't have the authority to rule on whether the previous judge's orders for Hasan to shave violate his religious freedom. The military appeals court's December ruling did not address that issue. That means Osborn won't order Hasan to shave.

She denied Hasan's request to stop his chain of command from ordering him to shave, although it's unclear if that has happened.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

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