JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Washington A U.S. soldier who served with the man accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a nighttime village rampage says he thought Staff Sgt. Robert Bales seemed remorseful after he was taken into custody.
Bales, 39, is accused of leaving his post in Kandahar province last March to attack two villages.
Defense witness 1st Sgt. Vernon Bigham testified Wednesday at a preliminary hearing that will help determine whether Bales faces a court martial on 16 counts of premeditated murder. He said he always thought Bales was a highly capable soldier.
Bigham's testimony is one of many that suggest Bales was aware of the crime he had committed. Other soldiers have testified that Bales made a confession between the attacks on two villages, asked for help bleaching his blood-stained clothing and deliberately destroyed his computer.
A medic, Sgt. 1st Class James Stillwell, said in court Tuesday that when he asked Bales where the blood on his clothing had come from, the soldier shrugged.
"If I tell you, you guys will have to testify against me," Stillwell quoted him as saying.
Soldiers also testified that after being taken into custody, Bales told them, "I thought I was doing the right thing."
"It's bad, it's really bad," he reportedly added.
The remarks could pose a high hurdle for defense lawyers who have indicated that Bales' mental health will be a big part of their case. The testimony is part of a preliminary hearing being held to help determine whether the case goes to a court martial.
Video testimony from Afghan witnesses is set to begin Friday.