Judge Says Ft. Hood Shooting Suspect May Act as His Own Lawyer in Court

HOUSTON — The Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., in 2009 will represent himself when his trial begins next month, the latest twist in a long-delayed case that is likely to raise numerous legal questions and could provide him with a stage to promote his radical Islamic beliefs, experts in military law said.

 

At a pretrial hearing at Fort Hood on Monday, the judge overseeing the court-martial of the psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, approved his request to release his court-appointed military lawyers and determined that he was physically and mentally capable of representing himself, Army officials said. Major Hasan was shot by the police at the time of the attack and is paralyzed below his chest.

 

Major Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood in Killeen, Tex. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

The complications arising from his decision to represent himself became apparent almost immediately. Not long after Colonel Osborn approved his request, Major Hasan made one of his first legal maneuvers, asking the judge for a three-month delay of the trial, which had been scheduled to begin July 1.

“Hasan is highly intelligent and has been using the trial process all along to advance his belief in radical Islam,” said Jeffrey F. Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. “Hasan does not care about doing a good job. He only cares about getting maximum press.”

It was unclear why Major Hasan released his Army legal team, and his objective in representing himself in a capital murder trial is unknown. He may cross-examine witnesses and even the shooting victims if they are called to testify for the prosecution, and there is also the possibility that he will interview prospective jurors when selection of the panel is scheduled to start on Wednesday.