The Article 32 hearing, named after the section of the military code of justice that dictates how it works, is sort of a combination of a grand jury hearing and a preliminary hearing in a civilian criminal case. But there are significant differences.
For instance, there will be significant testimony from many of the potential witnesses in the case, and unlike in a grand jury case, Bales and his attorney will be there and be able to cross-examine the witnesses against him or even present witnesses of their own.
This hearing, which is expected to last up to two weeks, will be even more unusual in that the courtroom will be linked by satellite to Afghanistan, where some of the witnesses will testify by teleconference.
On some days, the hearing in Washington state won't even begin until dinnertime, when the day is just beginning on the other side of the world in Afghanistan.
In one other difference from civilian court, the person who acts as the judge in the case will not make a decision about whether the case should go to trial in a court-martial. He or she will make a recommendation to the officer who ordered that the hearing be held. That person will decide which, if any, charges Bales will face at trial and also whether prosecutors will pursue the death penalty in the case.