Fort Hood suspect a step closer to court-martial

AP News
Posted: Mar 04, 2011 4:12 PM
Fort Hood suspect a step closer to court-martial

A brigade commander's recommendation Friday moved the Army psychiatrist charged in the Fort Hood shooting rampage one step closer to facing a military trial and the death penalty.

Col. Morgan Lamb recommended that Maj. Nidal Hasan be court-martialed and face the death penalty on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 shootings on the Texas Army post. Lamb's recommendation echoed one made last fall by another colonel who presided over Hasan's evidentiary hearing.

Defense attorney John Galligan said he was disappointed but not surprised by the recommendation and would raise objections before a commanding general issues a final decision. It's unclear when that decision will be made, and Army officials have not said whether they would seek the death penalty if Hasan goes to trial.

"This was done as I totally expected it ... because the Army has had a plan for this case and for my client from day one," Galligan told The Associated Press on Friday from his Fort Hood-area office, about 125 miles south of Fort Worth.

Galligan and the rest of Hasan's defense team met with Lamb last month and asked him to consider all options, saying a death penalty case is more expensive, time-consuming and provides no option for the defendant to plead guilty.

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

Lamb reviewed a military mental health panel's evaluation of Hasan before making his recommendation. The report offers an assessment of Hasan's mental state during the November 2009 shootings and whether he is competent to stand trial. Galligan has refused to disclose the report's findings but has said it will not prevent the military from pursuing a court-martial.

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.