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Several soldiers testified at a hearing that Sgt. Bales returned to the base alone just before dawn, covered in blood, and that he made incriminating statements such as, “I thought I was doing the right thing.”

The U.S. military has not executed anyone since 1961. There are five men currently facing military death sentences, all for murders committed stateside. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, charged in the 2009 rampage that killed 13 and wounded more than two dozen others at Fort Hood in Texas, also could face the death penalty if convicted; no date has been set for his court-martial.

For Sgt. Bales to face execution, the court-martial jury must unanimously find him guilty of premeditated murder; that at least one aggravating factor applies, such as multiple or child victims; and that the aggravating factor substantially outweighs any extenuating or mitigating circumstances.