Preliminary hearing ends in Afghan massacre case

Associated Press Modified: November 14, 2012 at 12:22 am •  Published: November 13, 2012
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The witnesses included a 7-year-old girl, who described how she hid behind her father when a gunman came to their village that night, how the stranger fired, and how her father died, cursing in pain and anger.

None of the Afghan witnesses were able to identify Bales as the shooter, but other evidence, including tests of the blood on his clothes, implicated him, according to testimony from a DNA expert.

After the hearing concluded, Scanlan spoke with reporters, saying that in addition to questions about Bales' state of mind, there are still questions of whether there were more people involved.

During testimony, a special agent testified that months after the killings, she was able to interview the wife of one of the victims, who recounted having seen two U.S. soldiers. Later, however, the woman's brother-in-law, Mullah Baraan, who was not present at the shootings, testified that the woman says there was only one shooter. The woman herself did not testify.

"We need to know if more than one person was outside that wire," Scanlan said.

Scanlan also raised the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injury, noting that Bales had received a screening at the traumatic brain injury clinic at Madigan Army Medical Center during a period of time that the center is under investigation for reversing hundreds of PTSD diagnoses of soldiers since 2007.

"We're in the process of investigating that," she said.

When asked if Bales had ever been diagnosed with PTSD, Scanlan said, "I'm not going to answer that right now."

Dan Conway, a military defense lawyer based in New Hampshire, said Tuesday that PTSD must be considered as a factor in the case.

"I think the defense team has an obligation to meet with doctors and determine if PTSD affected Bales' ability to premeditate the murders," Conway said. "It could play a very important role."

Bales' wife, Kari, and her sister, Stephanie Tandberg, met with reporters briefly after the hearings concluded. Tandberg read a statement, saying "we all grieve deeply for the Afghani families who lost their loved ones on March 11, but we must all not rush to judgment."

Last week, the lead prosecutor, Lt. Col. Jay Morse, said on the night of the killings Bales watched a movie about a former CIA agent on a revenge killing spree, with two fellow soldiers, while drinking contraband whiskey. Morse said Bales first attacked one village, Alkozai, returned to the base at Camp Belambay, then headed out again to attack a second village, Najiban. Bales returned to the base covered in blood, Morse said, and his incriminating statements indicate he was "deliberate and methodical."

In the family statement, Tandberg said: "We all want very much to know how, why, and what happened ... Much of the testimony was painful, even heartbreaking, but we are not convinced the government has shown us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what happened that night ... We know Bob as bright, courageous and honorable, as a man who is a good citizen, soldier, son, husband, father, uncle and sibling. We in Bob's family are proud to stand by him."

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AP writer Nicholas K. Geranios contributed to this report from Spokane, Wash. Follow Rachel La Corte at http://www.twitter.com/RachelAPOly or http://www.facebook.com/news.rachel