Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Afghan Massacre Survivors Take Stand At Bales Sentencing

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

A jury of six soldiers is hearing graphic testimony Tuesday afternoon at the start of the sentencing phase of the trial of a U.S. soldier who massacred Afghan villagers. The jury will decide whether Staff Sgt. Robert Bales deserves life in prison with or without the chance of parole.

The prosecution spent about two hours outlining the case against Bales -- as agreed to by both sides. This involved graphic photographs and video and statements about Sgt. Bales going into these mud-walled compounds in the middle of the night and shooting families at point blank range as they cowered and screamed.

Now we are hearing from Afghan survivors and witnesses who have been flow to Joint Base Lewis-McChord to testify through a translator about what happened that night in their homes.

The first Afghan survivor to take the witness stand promptly called Bales a 'bastard' in his native language. One bearded father in traditional Afghan dress broke down on the stand when he was asked about being shot and his children being shot. He stood up and started to walk off of the stand and said he just couldn't take any more.

Later in the sentencing hearing, defense attorneys for Sgt. Bales are expected to present evidence that could warrant leniency. This could include his previous deployments, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

The jury of six soldiers will decide then whether Bales deserve life in prison with or without the chance of parole. Bales pleaded guilty in June to avoid the death penalty for killing 16 civilians and wounding six others.

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."