Staff Sergeant, United States Army
WHO IS ROBERT BALES?
Staff Sergeant Bales, married and the father of two (2) small children, served three (3) previous combat tours as an Infantryman, sustaining traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); both diagnoses reflected in his Army medical record. The Army administered mefloquine as an anti-malarial Prophylaxis to SSG Bales. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a “black-box” warning and the Department of Defense (DOD) issued warnings about the potentially long-lasting suicidal ideations, aggression, unusual and psychotic behavior, and confusion associated with mefloquine use. During his fourth and last deployment in Kandahar province, SSG Bales left his Village Stability Platform (VSP) at night, and shot sixteen (16) local-nationals before returning to his VSP. Initially referred for the death penalty, SSG Bales pled guilty in exchange for the Army’s taking the death penalty off the table. The court sentenced him to life in confinement without the eligibility for parole.
Before the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA), SSG Bales raised two main claims. The first is that the Army flew nine (9) Afghans from the Kandahar battlespace but failed to disclose that five (5) of them were biometrically enrolled and their DNA was located on improvised explosive (IED) components, i.e. that they were bomb-makers, and enemy combatants. Had the jury been informed of these facts, SSG Bales could have received a lesser sentence. Additionally, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents show that the Army coordinated with the State Department to put these bombmakers on Delta airlines domestic commercial flights from Atlanta to Seattle, among innocent US civilians.
The Army had in its possession evidence that mefloquine can cause behavioral issues, including suicidal and homicidal ideations, and that the effects can be exacerbated in individuals already afflicted by PTSD or TBI. However, the prosecution did not disclose that SSG Bales received mefloquine by order of the chain-of-command, or that these side effects were known. If SSG Bales were laboring under the lasting psychiatric suicidal and homicidal ideations associated with mefloquine usage, his mens rea, or mindset/intent for murder, is called into question. To be guilty of a crime, one must not only have a “guilty mind,” as well as a bad act. Had the mefloquine information been disclosed and fully evaluated at trial, several significant and different outcomes were possible. First, the death penalty referral may not have occurred. Due to the recognition of potentially adverse interactions resulting from use of mefloquine, the clarity of intent is substantively in question. Second, SSG Bales may not have pled guilty to the murder charges had his diminished capacity to clearly develop intent due to mefloquine been brought into trial. Third, SSG Bales’ plea of guilty may not been accepted by the military judge as provident; and/or d) SSG Bales may have received a far different result, i.e. not guilty due to diminished mental capacity and responsibility (insanity).