United States Sgt. Robert Bales is expected to plea guilty next week on charges that he killed 16 Afghan civilians within the last year.
By pleading guilty, his lawyers say, he may escape the death penalty in a case widely considered the deadliest war crime in the post-9/11 era.
The attack occurred on March 11 in 2012. Bales entered a village near his Kandahar outpost and killed mostly women and children.
Most victims were shot in the head, then piled up and burned.
“We will not be satisfied unless he is executed," Haji Abdul Baqi, a family member of the victims, said. “Would they forgive us if we killed 16 Americans?”
While many of the Kandahar people seek Bales’ execution, the village has chosen not to participate in the trial.
John Henry Browne, Bales’ lawyer, admitted to finding the attacks tragic, but declined to comment on Bales’ potential statement next week. He described Bales’ state mind as “crazed” and “broken” on the night of the attack, arguing that Bales was on his fourth combat deployment, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
According to court evidence, Bales had been drinking alcohol and snorting Valium the night of the attack. Because this information has been reviewed by the court, Browne says it is impossible for Bales to plead insanity.
While prosecutors seek the death penalty, a U.S. soldier has not been sentenced to death in over 50 years.