A military prosecutor stated on Tuesday that they will seek the death penalty against Staff Sergeant Robert Bales for the killings of 16 Afghan civilians.
The prosecutor stated during the pretrial hearing that the evidence heard in the past week is so damning that the case needs to go forward as a capital crime, reports The New York Times. Prosecutor Major Rob Stelle stated:
“Terrible, terrible things happened — that is clear. The second thing that is clear is that Sergeant Bales did it.”
Emma Scanlan, a lawyer for Bales, contended the argument, saying that there are still lingering questions about the crime and also questions about the defendant’s mental and physical state, which make it necessary to proceed with the case with caution.
Scanlan asserted that “alcohol, steroids and sleeping aids” may have played a part in Bales’ mental state at the time of the killings.
Prosecutors, in seeking the death penalty, have charged that Bales, 39, slipped away from Camp Belambay, a remote base in southern Afghanistan, and attacked two villages in the early hours of March 11. Among the 16 killed in the incident were nine children.
Stelle also noted in his closing arguments that statements Bales made after he was apprehended showed he “demonstrated a clear memory of what he had done, and consciousness of wrong-doing,” according to CBS News.
Several soldiers testified in the pretrial hearing, saying that Bales returned just before dawn. He was covered in blood and made incriminating statements like, “I thought I was doing the right thing.”
If Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is sentenced to death for the crimes, he will be the first service member to be executed since Army private John A. Bennett in 1961. Bennett was hanged for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl.