In this courtroom sketch, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, left, appears before Judge Col. Jeffery Nance in a courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, during a sentencing hearing in the slayings of 16 civilians killed during pre-dawn raids on two villages on March 11, 2012. Haji Mohammad Naim, an Afghan farmer shot during a massacre in Kandahar Province last year, took the witness stand Tuesday against Bales, who attacked his village, cursing him before breaking down and pleading with the prosecutor not to ask him any more questions. (AP Photo/Peter Millet)
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AP) -- A military jury has sentenced a U.S. soldier who massacred 16 Afghan civilians last year to life in prison without a chance of parole.
The decision came Friday in the case against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales who pleaded guilty in June in a deal to avoid the death penalty for one of the worst atrocities of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Bales took the witness stand Thursday and apologized for the pre-dawn attack in March 2012, describing it as an act of cowardice.
Bales, a father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., was serving his fourth combat deployment when he left his outpost at Camp Belambay, in Kandahar province, in the middle of the night to attack two villages.
An Army prosecutor says Bales' own "stomach-churning" words prove he knew what he was doing when he massacred 16 Afghan villagers during the pre-dawn raids last year.
Lt. Col. Jay Morse delivered the government's closing argument Friday, noting that after the attacks Bales told another soldier he thought he killed 20 people.
Morse displayed photos of a young girl who was executed as she screamed and cried, as well as surveillance video of Bales returning to the base with "the methodical, confident gait of a man who's accomplished his mission."