Fort Hood shooting suspect trial won't be delayed
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — A military judge ruled Friday against delaying the trial of the Fort Hood shooting suspect, an Army psychiatrist who remains banned from the courtroom because his beard violates Army regulations.
Maj. Nidal Hasan's trial will proceed as scheduled, beginning on Aug. 20. Defense attorneys wanted the trial moved to December, saying they needed more time to prepare.
But the judge, Col. Gregory Gross, said the defense already had plenty of time. Prosecutors had indicated they were ready for trial last fall, but the court-martial was set for March and postponed first to June and then August — all at the request of the defense team.
Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 attack on the Texas Army post.
Gross said Friday that top Army officials had rejected Hasan's request for a religious exemption — due to his Islamic faith — to the rule banning beards. An appeals court also denied a defense request to overturn the judge's decision last week to bar Hasan from the courtroom unless he shaves.
Hasan watched Friday's hearing from a closed-circuit television in a nearby room, as he did during last week's hearing.
"I could have him held down and have someone shave him, but I'm not prepared to do that at this time," Gross said.
Gross also denied a defense request to step down as the trial judge, disputing allegations that he was biased against Hasan.
Lead defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris Poppe said the judge had asked defense attorneys to clean up a court restroom after Gross found a medical waste bag, adult diaper and what appeared to be feces on the floor after a hearing earlier this month.
Hasan, who is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police the day of the rampage, has to wear adult diapers — but the mess in the restroom that day was mud from a guard's boots, Poppe said.
Poppe also said that Hasan often gets cold because of his paralysis and had been allowed to wear a knit cap in court. But when Hasan showed up with a beard June 8, the judge ordered the cap removed because defense attorneys didn't have a doctor's note specifying why Hasan needed it, Poppe said.
Gross said that he always makes sure his courtroom and nearby areas are tidy and has the right to ask those responsible for messes to clean them. He said he has accommodated the defense team regarding scheduling and requests.