JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - In a day of long, emotional and often gruesome testimony Tuesday, the case against Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was laid out for a military jury that will decide his sentence. The jury of three officers and three enlisted men was chosen to deliberate whether Bales, 39, will serve a life sentence with the possibility of parole or with no parole.
Army prosecutors spent several hours going over the case against Bales reading a 32-page stipulation of facts detailing the murders of 16 Afghan civilians Bales admitted killing during a late-night spree on March 11, 2012. Bales pleaded guilty to the charges of murder, assault and illegal use of steroids in June to avoid the death penalty.
The hearing also included five Afghanis flown to Joint Base Lewis McChord to testify about the night Bales came to their home shooting several members of the family. Haji Mohammad Naeem, 60, became emotional and shouted as he answered questions through an interpreter, repeatedly calling Bales a bastard. Naeem said the gunshot wounds he suffered to his neck have left him unable to work and that he stutters when he speaks because of nerve damage. At one point Naeem stood up crying, telling an Army prosecutor "for God's sake please don't ask me any more questions," before refusing to testify further.
A telephone call between Bales and his wife Kari recorded after he was jailed in an Army stockade awaiting trial was played for the jury over defense objections. Prosecutors say the call showed Bales showed no remorse for the murder because he as his wife joked and laughed about one murder charge being dropped before the case went to trial. Bales repeatedly told his wife he loved her and wanted her to have a full life. He seemed resigned to spending the rest of his life in prison, at one point telling her she should consider a book deal to help support the family.
Testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday.