Because he's a Muslim and accused of having ties to a terrorist, the man charged in the deadly Fort Hood shooting rampage needs a jury consultant before he goes on trial for his life, his defense attorneys told a military judge Thursday.
Maj. Nidal Hasan's attorneys also told the judge that he needs another expert to analyze the extensive pretrial publicity about the case and determine how that might influence potential jurors.
The judge, Col. Gregory Gross, said he would rule later on the defense motions requesting the two experts that would require government funding. Gross would decide the amount if he approves one or both motions, according to Fort Hood officials.
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 shootings at the Texas Army post. His trial is set for March, and jurors are to be brought from Fort Sill, Okla.
Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, the lead defense attorney, said jurors must consider life in prison and not just the death penalty if Hasan is convicted. Poppe said the defense team needs a jury consultant to help ensure that jurors are fair because Hasan, 41, already faces numerous obstacles _ including stereotypes about his religion and the number of victims in the case.
Prosecutors urged the judge to deny the requests, saying they were unnecessary expenses. Maj. Larry Downend, one of the prosecutors, said a jury consultant would be doing "tasks performed routinely by attorneys around the world every day."
Poppe also said he would decide later whether to challenge Gross as the judge in the case. Gross answered some of Poppe's follow-up questions in court Thursday after filling out a questionnaire prepared by the defense team.
Gross said he was presiding over a trial in a Fort Hood courtroom on Nov. 5, 2009, when someone handed him a note instructing him to take a recess immediately. He said he then called his wife, who was shopping on the post with some other relatives, but that they were fine. Gross said he didn't remember if he attended the memorial service a few days later in which President Barack Obama addressed the victims' families and a large crowd at Fort Hood.
"The events of 5 November have had no noticeable impact (on me)," Gross said.
At an evidentiary hearing a year ago, witnesses said that a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform shouted "Allahu Akbar!" _ Arabic for "God is great!" _ and opened fire in a small but crowded medical building where deploying soldiers are vaccinated and undergo other tests. The gunman fired rapidly, pausing only to reload, even shooting some people as they hid under tables or fled the building, witnesses said.
Some witnesses identified the gunman as Hasan, an American-born Muslim who was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan the following month. Hasan was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot the day of the rampage and remains jailed.
A Senate report released earlier this year said the FBI missed warning signs and that before the rampage, Hasan had become an Islamic extremist and a "ticking time bomb."
U.S. officials have said they believe Hasan's attack was inspired by the radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and that they exchanged as many as 20 emails. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in late September. His name has not yet been mentioned in any hearings in Hasan's case.