In a clear warning to other U.S. soldiers to be careful during their combat missions, Robert Bales, a U.S. Army staff sergeant, has been sentenced to life in prison for killing 16 Afghans. NPR reported on Aug. 23, 2013, Bales admitted to killing 16 Afghan civilians in 2012. A military jury has sentenced Bales to life in prison without parole. Bales pleaded guilty to the charges in June in order to avoid a possible death sentence in this case.
The sentence against Bales was handed down on Friday by a six-member military jury which was assembled at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, located near Tacoma, Washington. The killings of the Afghan civilians took place during two predawn visits Bales made to villages in Kandahar province last spring.
Bales shot men, women and children with an M-4 rifle and a 9 mm pistol during his killing spree. Bales, who has two kids, apologized for his actions saying, "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."
New York Daily News reported that Bales' lawyer tried hard to avoid such a harsh sentence. In his closing argument Lt. Col. Jay Morse said Bales is a “man of no moral compass,” and he asked the jury to ensure he is never released from prison. Bales' lawyer, Emma Scanlan, begged the jurors to give consideration her client’s years of good military service. She suggested he must have snapped under the pressure of his fourth combat deployment.