Accused Fort Hood shooter seeks to move trial venue

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 28, 2013 7:04 AM
Accused Fort Hood shooter seeks to move trial venue

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan on Thursday will ask a military judge to move his murder trial out of Fort Hood, Texas where he is charged with killing 13 people during a shooting rampage in 2009, according to a statement from Fort Hood.

During Thursday's pretrial hearing, lawyers for Hasan will also ask that the makeup of the officers on the jury be changed, and that Army Judge Colonel Tara Osborn reconsider the procedure for sentencing Hasan if he is convicted. The statement did not provide further details on those requests.

Hasan has been in custody since the attack, in which 32 people were wounded. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, a law professor at St. Mary's University in Texas and a retired Army Judge Advocate General, said the requests are part of the defense strategy to delay the trial.

"This case is such a high-profile case that you can't go to any military installation in the world where you will find a panel that has not heard about the case," Addicott said.

Osborn was appointed late last year to succeed a judge who was removed from the case by a military appeals court. One of the reasons the court cited was the fact that the former judge had been in his office at Fort Hood at the time of the shooting.

Last year, the case was delayed for several months while Army appeals courts considered whether Hasan would be allowed to continue to have a beard in the courtroom.

The appeals court that removed the previous judge from the case declined to rule on the beard question, but Osborn allowed Hasan to wear his beard during a pretrial hearing she conducted last month.

Osborn also declined to remove the death penalty from consideration, meaning Hasan will not be allowed to plead guilty, something his lawyers had indicated he was prepared to do. Guilty pleas are not allowed for capital crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Andrew Hay)