The sergeant, stationed in Washington state, was sentenced to life for the slayings of 16 Afghan civilians and the wounding of six others in 2012.
FORT BELVOIR, Va. — An appeals court has upheld the conviction and life sentence of former Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales for the slayings of 16 Afghan civilians and the wounding of six others in solitary pre-dawn raids on two villages in 2012.
The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, rejected Bales’ appeal Wednesday.
Bales, an Ohio native who had been stationed in Washington state, pleaded guilty in 2013 to avoid the death penalty. In his appeal, he argued the Army withheld information about a witness in the case as well as evidence he may have been prescribed a psychosis-inducing malaria drug.
In July 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its strictest warning about the drug, known as mefloquine or Lariam. The FDA noted that the potential for long-term neurological damage and serious psychiatric side effects.
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Defense attorneys contended that Bales likely used Lariam while on a 2003-2004 tour in Iraq, and possibly in Afghanistan in 2012.
But the three-judge panel said that defense affidavits to support their case that Bales used Lariam were speculative. Even if Bales was prescribed the drug, there “would still be no evidence that he actually took it and was under its influence during the commission of his crimes,” the judges wrote in a 13-page ruling.
John Henry Browne, a Seattle-based defense attorney who represented Bales during the court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), said he was disappointed with the ruling and expected it would be appealed.
Browne said the Army medical records for Bales were not complete, and there needed to be a thorough investigation of whether Bales took Lariam. The judges did not address the “substantive issues” in the appeal, he said.
Bales, 44, was deployed three times to Iraq, then to Afghanistan, during more than a decade of Army service. His last tour ended as he was taken into custody on the morning he carried out the village attacks.