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US soldier receives life sentence for killing 16 Afghan civilians

A jury of six military personnel on Friday ruled [AP report] Staff Sergeant Robert Bales [JURIST news archive] would receive life in prison without parole for killing 16 Afghan civilians. The panel deliberated for less than two hours [Reuters report]. The commanding general overseeing the court-martial still has the option to reduce the sentence [AP report] to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Bales has never explained his actions but offered an apology to the victim's families on Thursday. The victim's families have expressed dissatisfaction with both the sentence Bales received and the apology Bales offered. The murders represent the worst case of murder of civilians on the part of military personnel since the Vietnam War.

This outcome was not unexpected, since Bales pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in July to the premeditated murder of the Afghan civilians in order to comply with a plea deal and avoid the death penalty. Last November the prosecution articulated its desire to seek the death penalty [JURIST news report] against Bales. That announcement came just one week after hearings in the case began [JURIST report]. The charges of alcohol and steroid usage was added [JURIST report] last June. The first charges were filed [JURIST report] last March.

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