Prosecutors seek death for U.S. soldier charged in Afghan rampage

Tue Nov 6, 2012 3:01am GMT
 

By Bill Rigby

TACOMA, Washington (Reuters) - Military prosecutors said on Monday they would seek the death penalty for a U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers when he ventured out of his camp on two revenge-fuelled drunken forays earlier this year.

The lead prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Morse, told a preliminary hearing he would present evidence proving "chilling premeditation" on the part of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 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 slaughter blamed on an individual U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War and eroded already strained U.S.-Afghan ties after more than a decade of conflict in the country.

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.

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

The hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state was expected to last two weeks and include 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 Bales to stand trial by court-martial.

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 Morse summarized the prosecution's account of the events of March 10-11.   Continued...

This photograph of a courtroom sketch by artist Lois Silver shows U.S. Army soldier Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, (2nd R) and his defense attorneys Emma Scanlan (2nd L) and Maj. Gregory Malson (L) at the start of the military Article-32 Investigation, a U.S. Courts Martial pre-trial proceeding, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington November 5, 2012. A U.S. Army soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a drunken rampage in March faces the military version of a preliminary hearing starting on Monday to determine if there is sufficient evidence for a court martial. Bales is accused of killing Afghan villagers in a drunken rampage on March 11, 2012 and faces 16 counts of premeditated murder. Also pictured in this courtroom sketch is military prosecuting attorney Maj. Rob Stelle (R) and presiding investigation officer Col. Lee Demecky. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante
 
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