US Soldier Gets Life In Prison For Afghan Massacre

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales admits to killing 16 Afghan civilians, receives no chance at parole
7:53 | 08/23/13

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Transcript for US Soldier Gets Life In Prison For Afghan Massacre
This is a special report from ABC news. Hello I'm -- Hernandez in new York and this is an ABC news digital special report. A US army soldier who admitted to killing sixteen Afghan civilians will spend the rest -- his life in prison. Without a chance of parole. Military judge handed the sentence down today to army staff Sargent Robert sales ABC's Louis Martinez is at the Pentagon with the -- -- into. So bring us back what were the circumstances surrounding the massacre last year. Follow his it was a nighttime deployment in March and this is a -- -- small outpost in remote area of southern Afghanistan. Robert -- world goes providing security -- special forces unit that was. Based there and you're in two villages and what he did is that he slipped out of the middle of the night and went to one of these villages and began shooting spree. Ultimately they were sixteen Afghan civilians were killed in this night -- spree at one point he actually went back to his combat outpost. Got more ammunition because -- accused of so much in the first village. Even told one of his. Suite -- that he had done something bad. That an individual went back to -- -- believing him did not believe him. And he -- out again I went to another nearby the other nearby village and continued with the shooting spree. At that point he was it captured after he was -- back -- to his base. Because there is basically -- -- eight PBL for him because his fellow soldiers thought that he had been taken. And then when he looks and -- found him he was all bloodied. Uniform is all covered in line. And at that point he was confronted about what he had done and he admitted that he had shot villagers. So what we have today is a sentencing phase and we'll see him getting. A life sentence without parole he admitted it to -- to the shootings last June as part of a plea deal. The only question that the jury was up for the jury at Fort Lewis was whether he was gonna get likes. -- -- without parole. Or life with parole they decided life without -- He ever say why he did it we know that he made an apology in court did he offer any explanation. His defense attorneys initially said it is all part of its combat stress from his previous deployments. His trip to Afghanistan. And back in 2000 -- was his fourth deployment. Between Iraq and Afghanistan. When -- things that they talked about ways to combat stress well. -- -- we never actually heard from him. We never heard from him until yesterday when is part of this sending seeing -- phase he took the stand. And basically said I'm sorry but he was not saying I'm sorry to the villagers because he was addressing the jury. The six of members and military service members who we're gonna determine. Whether you get life without parole he said he called it an act of cowardice. He couldn't explain -- it's why he did it. He sent to the jury members that he wished that his apology could be conveyed to the villagers. Who had actually flown all the way from Afghanistan to participate. In this sentencing phase they at one point -- we heard very gripping testimony. From the villagers who confronted -- who was sitting across from them in the courtroom. One and I recall hearing that one village elders stood -- because he just couldn't keep on. When his testimony he -- he said I just can't talk seeing him there. You know I I rented. There was one -- -- who came homage was here. He lost eleven relatives including his wife mother and six of his seven children it must have been very compelling in that courtroom. There's a very compelling and again it's very rare today ending that -- -- actually get witness to witness testimony like this. During the -- Some of these witnesses testified via satellite. For this time around the army prosecutors felt it was so important. To bring the witnesses all the way from Afghanistan so they were flown in eighteen imagines -- villagers from the very remote part of the world. Getting getting on the plane for the first time seeing. The United States for the first time and then but most importantly what they want to see is the man. Who shot their family members and that's why they were willing to do this not something -- area. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Now Lou you mentioned that this was -- fourth deployment and the defense did tried to bring up. Post traumatic stress as a potential explanation but they decided not to call any psychiatrists or any experts why do you think you. That's right it's it's unclear why did it gave me such a big deal about it in the run -- prior to the last June and to the plea deal. Is an essential crux of the argument but I think they they wanted -- -- ghetto and legal battle of the experts in this scenario. I mean there is evidence that showed that he had -- or use it -- she had been drinking which took it is illegal in the military when you're on a deployment that's not allowed. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- drinking the night prior to into the night of the shootings prior to them taking place. So it appears that they wanna get and is steadily experts and so instead -- was deprived -- -- in the final day in -- others of his squad -- to kind of talk about. What life was like for them in this remote outpost with what the situation -- like what some of the stresses that they had in terms. Of living so far away from. Now we also know that he. Had a record before he entered the military was that used in the courtroom what can you tell us about his past. But hey I'm not that specific on the details of what was actually brought -- -- part of evidence and this we do know that he had some trouble in the past. Before he -- the army. He had -- Something to -- attendant who had -- stock. Trader nominate to recall what the particulars were -- it wasn't it's not something that -- if you're gonna discounted military service. We just basically totally switch careers going for stock investments. In two becoming army soldier I need any -- well apparently because he rose to the level staff sergeant. This case. One can imagine was being very closely watched in Afghanistan where is their concern about the ramifications if he did not yet. The maximum sentence he faced today life without parole. He attacked his case was huge in Afghanistan when it happened back in March -- calling the outrage from President Karzai. -- -- it look across the full spectrum in Afghanistan. Not just political leaders. Regular Afghan civilians outraged by what had happened they wanted to death penalty. -- in June he came up with the plea deal that the got him where he pled guilty he got to avoid death penalty he got instead a life sentence and again that's why we ended up -- this sentencing phase right now. To determine whether he was gonna get license with -- -- without parole but the real outrage I think happened back in June. When it was when he as part of his plea deal he got to you. The death penalty was taken off the table by prosecutors. So it's going to be. I think that the outrages can't continue in Afghanistan amateur I was gonna effect -- Afghan relations. This was seen as a slight on the Afghan population. Which has relied on the US military to help them -- the last ten years. But again and I think much of the average it's already prior to this back in June. But of course when you talk about a massacre of men women and children. You know sentenced is probably ever going to satisfy those victims. ABC's Louis Martinez at the Pentagon thank you so much for bringing us the details on this case. Thanks this is an ABC news digital special report anti Hernandez in New York thank you for watching. This has been a special group. Report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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