The U.S. Army announced Wednesday it will seek the death penalty for the former solider accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians during a pre-dawn massacre in March.
The announcement comes after a pretrial hearing last month for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39, who faces a number of charges, including premeditated murder, in the attack on two communities in southern Afghanistan.
According to prosecutors, Bales, who grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, Ohio, left his remote base in southern Afghanistan early March 11, shot up one village, returned to the base, and then left again to attack another nearby community. Of the 16 people Bales allegedly murdered, nine were children.
No date has been set for Bales’ court martial, which will be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.
As of Tuesday, Bales’ civilian lawyer, John Henry Browne, maintained that the death penalty should not be considered for Bales, as he was serving his fourth deployment in a combat zone. Browne has not commented yet on today's announcement.
Bales’ defense team says the government’s case is lacking, and outside experts will have to help determine whether the former sergeant, who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Also under consideration is a pre-trial testimony from an Army criminal investigations command special agent who said Bales tested positive for steroids three days after the killings. Other soldiers testified Bales had been drinking alcohol the evening of the massacre.