Afghan Massacre Suspect to Plead Guilty, Avoid Death

Victims' relatives are irate Robert Bales won't face execution

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 30, 2013 2:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will plead guilty to the murder of 16 Afghan villagers, his lawyer tells CNN, in a move to dodge the death penalty. Lawyer John Henry Browne says military prosecutors have approved the plea, but a rep for Joint Base Lewis-McChord wouldn't say whether the matter was settled, the New York Times reports. A plea hearing is set for Wednesday, the rep said.

Browne says Bales was "crazed" and "broken" at the time of the attack, but he didn't qualify for a legal insanity defense, per the AP. Afghan villagers are furious at the possibility Bales might not face capital punishment. "A prison sentence doesn't mean anything," says a relative of several victims. "I know we have no power now. But I will become stronger, and if he does not hang, I will have my revenge." Added a man who had 11 relatives killed in the attack: "For this one thing, we would kill 100 American soldiers."

In this Aug. 23, 2011 file photo, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
In this Aug. 23, 2011 file photo, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.   (AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock)
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