The sentencing was expected to offer some victims and relatives their first chance to confront Bales face-to-face.
The Army flew nine villagers, all males, from Kandahar Province. Among them are Haji Mohammad Wazir, who lost 11 family members, including his wife, mother and two brothers; Haji Mohammad Naim, who was shot in the neck; and a teenage boy named Rafiullah who was shot in both legs.
Several have previously said they are outraged that Bales is escaping the death penalty.
During his plea hearing in June, Bales couldn’t explain to a judge why he committed the killings. “There’s not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did,” he said.
He did not say he was sorry, but his lawyers hinted an apology might come at sentencing.
Bales’ attorneys have said they plan to present evidence that could warrant leniency, including his previous deployments and what they describe as his history of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
“Our general theme is that Sgt. Bales snapped,” one of his civilian attorneys, John Henry Browne, said earlier.
If he is sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, Bales would be eligible in 20 years, but there’s no guarantee he would receive it.