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Army Prosecutors: Sgt. Bales Exhibited 'Sheer Brutality'

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. Photo courtesy of Maj. Brent Clemmer
Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. Photo courtesy of Maj. Brent Clemmer

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Army prosecutors say Staff Sgt. Robert Bales murdered 16 Afghan civilians in two villages this past March in an act of “sheer brutality.” That was the opening argument at a pretrial hearing Monday to determine if Bales will face a full court martial and possibly the death penalty.

Prosecutors say the night of the village-to-village killing spree Bales drank Jack Daniels and soda with a couple of fellow soldiers and watched the Denzel Washington movie “Man on Fire” about a man seeking revenge. Bales’ friend had lost a leg in a bomb attack a few days earlier.

In the early hours of March 11th, prosecutors allege Bales slipped out of his Army compound and over the next five hours and murdered or attempted to murder 22 Afghan civilians -– mostly women and children.

But Stephen Carpenter Jr. -- a military defense lawyer watching the proceedings -– says there’s one big weakness in the prosecution’s case.

“The physical evidence at this point seems pretty limited. It is early in the game.”

A key witness testified Bales returned to the base covered in blood saying “it’s bad, it’s really bad.”

Bales’ lawyer protested the hearing going forward saying she had not received complete evidence in the case.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."