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Attorneys Offer Court Context For Staff Sgt. Bales' Crimes

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

In a courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State yesterday, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales apologized. Robert Bales has pled guilty to massacring 16 villagers in Afghanistan, mostly women and children. This morning, a military jury will decide whether his life sentence will be with or without the possibility of parole.

Bales and his attorneys say they're trying to offer some context for his crimes but no excuses, as NPR's Martin Kaste reports,

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Bales' apology came sooner than anyone expected. His lawyers had been preparing to put mental health experts on the stand. But outside the court yesterday, lawyer John Henry Browne said they made a tactical decision to skip that.

JOHN HENRY BROWNE: Between us and the government, we had stacks this tall of medical diagnoses, evaluations, testing and all that. But it would have been a battle of the experts, you know, saying he snapped, and someone else saying something worse about him. And it would have just gone back and forth.

KASTE: Instead, other soldiers recalled the bloody scenes that they and Bales had witnessed in Iraq. And Bales himself talked about how angry he felt in the years leading up to the massacre. He said on the day preceding the attack, he'd spent hours trying to hack apart a downed tree, imagining that it represented the enemy.

Martin Kaste, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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