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Bales Defense Team Calls Army's Decision 'Disappointing'

High Desert Warrior
High Desert Warrior. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

The top forces commander at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord has decided to seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He’s the 39-year old soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year.

Bales is accused of conducting two predawn raids on villages in southern Afghanistan. The victims were mostly women and children and the Army says some of the bodies were burned. Prosecutors had asked for a death penalty trial and top commanders at Lewis-McChord agreed.

Emma Scanlan is one of Bales’ civilian defense attorneys. She calls the Army’s decision disappointing.

“This is just another way for them to ignore the responsibility of a failed mental health system," Scanlan says. "It’s a way for them to ignore the responsibility of the Special Forces for giving Sgt. Bales steroids and alcohol.”

At the time of the killings, Bales – an infantry soldier - was assigned to a Special Forces outpost. He was on his fourth combat deployment. Bales is married father of two. In a statement, his wife says Bales is entitled to a fair trial.

No court-martial date has been set.

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."