Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is scheduled to appear in court Thursday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for an arraignment on charges that he murdered 16 Afghan civilians and wounded six more in March.
It is to be his first court appearance since the Army announced last month that it intends to pursue the death penalty against Bales.
The Army’s prosecution of Bales is still in its early phases and Bales does not have to enter a plea.
Bales allegedly slipped out of his Special Forces combat outpost in Kandahar province twice in the early hours of March 11 to slaughter Afghan civilians in two separate villages. Nine of the victims were children.
The Army in November presented evidence over a two-week pretrial hearing suggesting that Bales was the only soldier missing from the combat outpost that night, that DNA evidence from blood samples on his weapon matched another sample from one of the killing scenes, and that Bales appeared to confess to the killings when his fellow soldiers took him into custody that day.
The soldier’s defense attorneys have not conceded Bales’ guilt. They have suggested that Afghan witnesses appeared confused and could have seen multiple shooters on the night of the killings. They have further said that Bales was dogged by “undiagnosed” post-traumatic stress disorder that should have prevented him from deploying to Afghanistan for what his fourth combat mission.
Bales, 39, is a father of two who used to live in Bonney Lake. He served his entire Army career at Joint Base Lewis-McChord with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He was well-regarded among his peers before his last deployment, and was on the path to a coveted promotion, his company first sergeant testified in November.