Judge refuses delay for Fort Hood suspect's trial

AP News
Posted: Jul 02, 2013 2:45 PM
Judge refuses delay for Fort Hood suspect's trial

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — A military judge on Tuesday entered a not guilty plea for the Army psychiatrist accused in the deadly 2009 attack on Fort Hood, and she refused his request for another delay to hire an attorney.

Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is representing himself, said Ramsey Clark — who served as U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson and as a lawyer for the dictators Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic — offered to represent him.

He told the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, that he wanted to talk to Clark and would need a delay, but she rejected the request. She said Hasan could hire a new attorney if that person is ready by July 9, when jury selection is to start. Hasan said that if he couldn't hire Clark, he would continue representing himself and didn't want his former defense attorneys representing him. The judge previously ordered Hasan's former attorneys to remain on standby to help if he asks.

Osborn noted that Hasan's request came on the eve of the trial, which already has been delayed several times.

Hasan, 42, faces execution or life without parole if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the massacre on the Texas Army post.

Osborn entered a not-guilty plea for Hasan, an American-born Muslin, after he refused.

Under military law, a death penalty case requires a plea of not guilty. The judge previously refused to remove death as a punishment option in Hasan's case after he asked to plead guilty.

Before refusing to enter a plea, Hasan said he earlier tried to plead guilty after his "Muslim community" told him his actions went against Islamic teachings. But he said he later came to believe his actions weren't wrong because of the war in Afghanistan.

He said the judge then barred him from using a "defense of others" strategy, which must show that a killing was necessary to prevent the immediate harm or death of others. Hasan recently told the judge he killed U.S. troops at the Army post because they posed an imminent threat to Taliban leaders in Afghanistan.

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In contrast, last month at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales pleaded guilty as charged to premeditated murder and other charges as part of a plea deal that removed death as a punishment option. Bales murdered 16 Afghan villagers during pre-dawn raids in 2011 during his fourth deployment. A penalty-phase trial next month will determine whether Bales is sentenced to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.

Some military law experts argued that given Bales' history with post-traumatic stress disorder, prosecutors might have been unlikely to secure a death sentence.