The Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas in 2009 that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 is set to begin his court-martial trial soon, on July 1, and has just announced that he will be representing himself.
Here’s what you should know about the alleged killer and his complicated trial.
1. The Judge Said She Will Allow Him to Represent Himself
The judge, Col. Tara A. Osborn, granted Hasan’s request to represent himself, saying he was mentally and physically equipped for the task. Critics worry that Hasan will use the trial as an excuse to advance his extremists Islamic beliefs and jihadist rhetoric.
2. His Strategy is Called “Defense of Others”
Hasan says he will use the so-called “defense of others” strategy, which is a criminal defense strategy that will require him to prove he was protecting others from immediate danger or death.
3. He Claims He Was Protecting Taliban Leaders
To satisfy the requirements of the “defense of others” strategy, Hasan has claimed he was protecting the lives of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, or as he described, “The leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban.”
He specifically cited Mullah Muhammad Omar, who is considered the spiritual leader and founder of the Taliban.
4. The Pentagon Designates the Attack as a Workplace Shooting and Not Terrorism
The Department of Defense has classified the Fort Hood incident as “workplace violence” rather than an act of terrorism, because, they say, there isn’t enough evidence to put Hasan on trial for committing terrorism.
Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman recently indicated that the DOD may be receptive to changing this classification if more evidence becomes available, saying:
Please be assured that, based on new, relevant evidence, the Army is willing to reconsider this decision if it is warranted at a later time.
Survivors and family members of the victims want the shooting to be re-designated as a “terrorist attack” so that they may receive the same benefits of those injured or killed on the battlefield. Right now those same benefits are not available because the Fort Hood shooting has been deemed as not “combat-related”, according to the families and victims.
The Pentagon claims these benefits have not been denied.
5. Hasan is Still Receiving His Army Salary
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According to Dallas NBC affiliate KXTX, Hassan has still been receiving his Army salary during the trial procedure, totaling more than $278,000. The Army has cited the Military Code of Justice, which stipulates that an individual will still receive his or her salary throughout the court martial proceeding until proven guilty.
6. The Case Has Been Delayed Numerous Times and May Be Delayed Again
The case has been languishing in military court for over three-and-a-half years due to numerous procedural issues and hangups. And Hasan has now requested the trial start date be delayed by three more months so that he could better prepare his “defense of others” strategy. The judge said she she will consider the delay and is awaiting Hasan’s motion in that regard.
7. He Asked for His Defense Research Documents Not Be Printed Because Too Many Trees Would Die
According to an Army press release, Hasan has expressed concern over too many tress being killed to print his research materials for his defense. The release reads:
Hasan indicated that he currently has insufficient access to legal research material and the use of the Internet. He stated he was concerned that too many trees would be killed in the printing of research materials, and repeated his request for Internet access
8. He Was Ordered to Shave His Beard by The Court, But the Order Was Thrown Out
In a case filled with complications, even Hasan’s beard has been a point of contention. The original judge in this case, Col. Gregory Gross, had originally ordered that Hasan’s beard be forcibly shaved to comply with Army grooming standards.
Hasan has grown a beard since his arrest in 2009, and he has contended it is line with his deep religious devotion to the Islamic faith. Gross had repeatedly said the beard was a distraction and even held Hasan in contempt six times over the issue.
However, a military appeals court rejected the beard-shaving order, and after Gross was replaced by Osborn, the new judge said the beard was allowed to stay. Osborn said the beard was a violation of Army regulations, but that she would let it slide.
9. Judge Gross Was Kicked Off the Case Because of Alleged Bias
The fight over the beard actually led to Gross being removed from the case by the mlitary appeals court. As the Los Angeles Times reported:
The appeals court ruled that military command, not a military judge, has responsibility for grooming standards, and that Gross could no longer convincingly appear to be unbiased in handling Hasan’s case.
10. Hasan Faces the Death Penalty
Hasan charges could get him the death penalty, but the Army has not executed anyone since 1961. Army regulations would also require President Obama to sign an affirmative order approving Hasan’s execution.