Colonel considers recommendation on Fort Hood case

AP News
Posted: Feb 23, 2011 8:04 PM
Colonel considers recommendation on Fort Hood case

A military official is considering whether an Army psychiatrist should be court-martialed and face the death penalty for the mass shooting at Fort Hood, reviewing requests made Wednesday by the defense team.

A brigade commander, Col. Morgan Lamb, was expected to make a recommendation soon in the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 rampage.

Lamb, the second military official to make a recommendation in the Hasan case, will give his report to a commanding general, who will then make the final decision about how the case will proceed.

Last fall another colonel who presided over an evidentiary hearing for Hasan made an initial recommendation that he should be court-martialed and face the death penalty. Army officials have not said if they would seek that punishment if Hasan goes to trial.

Neither Fort Hood officials nor defense attorneys would reveal specifics of the meeting Wednesday.

Defense attorney John Galligan said that during the meeting that lasted more than an hour, he asked Lamb to consider all options, saying a death penalty case is more expensive, time-consuming and provides no option for the defendant to plead guilty.

"It was a very good meeting, and he's aware of our concerns, but I don't want to talk about the nature of the discussions until Col. Lamb makes his recommendation," Galligan told The Associated Press on Wednesday from his office near Fort Hood, about 125 miles south of Fort Worth.

Galligan declined to say whether he has discussed any plea bargains with military prosecutors or if he is considering an insanity defense for Hasan, 40, who remains jailed. Hasan was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police the day of the rampage.

Before issuing his recommendation, Lamb also is considering a military mental health panel's evaluation of Hasan. The report submitted last month offers an assessment of Hasan's mental state during the November 2009 shootings and whether he is competent to stand trial.

Galligan said he will not disclose the report until Lamb makes his recommendation. But last month Galligan said the report will not prevent the military from pursuing a court-martial. Galligan was critical of the report and requested a meeting with Lamb after it was issued.

Military law experts have said that if such a panel were to determine a defendant is not competent to stand trial, or has a severe mental illness preventing him from knowing at the time that his alleged actions were wrong, the case likely would be delayed or even dismissed.