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Nation/World

August 24, 2013

Villagers unsatisfied by life sentence for Bales

(Continued)

They also criticized American involvement in Afghanistan, saying the soldiers came to build their country but have done no such thing.

Bales never offered an explanation for why he armed himself with a 9 mm pistol and an M-4 rifle and left his post on the killing mission, but he apologized on the witness stand Thursday and described the slaughter as an “act of cowardice, behind a mask of fear, bulls--- and bravado.”

The villagers said they hadn’t read or listened to the apology. One, Mullah Baran, called it a “fraud.”

Prosecutors described Bales as a “man of no moral compass.”

“In just a few short hours, Sgt. Bales wiped out generations,” Lt. Col. Jay Morse told the jury in his closing argument. “Sgt. Bales dares to ask you for mercy when he has shown none.”

A commanding general overseeing the court-martial has the option of reducing the sentence to life with the possibility of parole.

Defense attorney Emma Scanlan argued for the lighter sentence, begging jurors to consider her client’s prior life and years of good military service and suggested he snapped under the weight of his fourth combat deployment. She read from a letter Bales sent to his two children 10 weeks before the killing: “The children here are a lot like you. They like to eat candy and play soccer. They all know me because I juggle rocks for them.”

“These aren’t the words of a cold-blooded murderer,” Scanlan said.

She also read from a letter sent by a fellow soldier, a captain who said that Bales seemed to have trouble handling a decade of war and death: “The darkness that had been tugging at him for the last 10 years swallowed him whole.”

Prosecutors laying out the case for a life term, argued that Bales’ own “stomach-churning” words demonstrated that he knew exactly what he was doing.

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