Judge postpones ruling on whether to delay Fort Hood trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 04, 2013 7:19 PM

By Jim Forsyth

(Reuters) - A U.S. military judge on Tuesday postponed a ruling on whether to grant a request by an Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage to delay his court-martial to give him more time to prepare his defense.

Major Nidal Hasan, who is accused of firing on soldiers preparing to deploy to the Middle East, told the judge that his defense was based on his desire to protect Afghanistan and the Taliban leadership, according to a statement from Fort Hood, a Texas military post.

"However, he was unable to provide sufficient facts at the time of today's hearing in support of this defense," the Fort Hood statement said.

Hasan, who was granted permission on Monday to act as his own lawyer, told the judge he needed more time to prepare his "defense of others" justification of the shooting spree, which killed 13 people and wounded 32 at the Texas military installation. The Army psychiatrist, 42, could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The judge gave him until midday on Wednesday to gather the facts to support his request for a three-month delay. She was expected to rule on Wednesday on the request.

Jury selection had been set for Wednesday, but Osborn said Tuesday that potential jurors should arrive at Fort Hood no earlier than Monday.

Hasan's argument, that he killed the soldiers to stop them from going to the Middle East and killing Muslims there, won't succeed in an American court, according to military law expert Colonel Geoffrey Corn of the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

"To make a legitimate claim of defense of others, you have to protect them against imminent, unlawful violence," Corn said. "This was not an imminent threat."

Hasan has already been granted two delays, and last year the question of whether he should be allowed to wear a beard in the courtroom in violation of Army grooming regulations resulted in a six-month delay. Osborn has put that issue aside.

Gary Solis, a law professor at Georgetown University and an expert on military law, said Osborn was proceeding carefully to avoid her ruling being overturned on appeal.

"She wants to ensure that an appellate court has no grounds, up the legal road, for reversing a guilty finding because the judge failed to allow the accused time to gather evidence," Solis said.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Leslie Gevirtz and Lisa Shumaker)