The legal team working for a former 2nd Infantry Division soldier convicted of a 2012 mass murder in Afghanistan is making another push at an appeal.
A review petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on May 16 alleges that prosecutors disregarded evidence that an anti-malarial drug given to troops could cause violent behavior, as well as indications that Aghan villagers flown in to testify as witnesses against former Staff Sgt. Robert Bales were enemy combatants.
Bales’ attorneys argue that the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, which heard the case in 2017, was mistaken when it ruled that the case’s original prosecutor did not have to disclose the side effects of mefloquine when building a case against him.
“Bales presented the Court of Appeals with unchallenged expert medical affidavits that the United States ordered him to take the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, and that he was laboring under its long-lasting adverse psychiatric effects, including symptoms of psychosis, when on his fourth infantry combat tour he left his post and committed 16 homicides,” according to the petition.
The filing also alleges that Panjwai district villagers who made statements at Bales’ 2013 sentencing were not innocent bystanders, and the prosecution knew it.
“What went undisclosed, however, was that some of the Afghan sentencing witnesses left their fingerprints on improvised explosive devices, that is, on bombs on the fields of battle in Afghanistan. That suppressed fact changed their legal status from noncombatants under International Humanitarian Law to that of unlawful belligerents or brigands, potentially targetable under the Law of War,” the petition says.
Bales pleaded guilty to 16 counts of murder in 2013, a deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty. He retold the events of March 11, 2012, as part of that agreement.
He detailed how he had been using steroids to put on weight before he got drunk on Camp Belambay and made his way into nearby villages, shooting down men, women and children, then setting their corpses on fire.
Bales was sentenced to life without parole at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His attorneys have since been working on an appeal to reduce his sentence to life with the possibility of parole.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.