Judge delays defense hearing for Fort Hood suspect

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 05, 2013 5:42 PM
Judge delays defense hearing for Fort Hood suspect

By Karen Brooks

FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - A military judge on Wednesday delayed a court hearing in which the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood is expected to detail his legal defense which officials say is based on his desire to protect the Taliban and Afghanistan.

Colonel Tara Osborn, the military judge overseeing Army Major Nidal Hasan's capital murder court martial, said both sides were late getting court filings to her and it was "obvious" they needed more time to prepare.

Osborn gave them a new deadline of Monday and recessed the court until 9 a.m. Tuesday, when she will hear the legal basis for Hasan's planned defense.

Hasan, 42, a U.S.-born Muslim, stands accused of firing on soldiers preparing to deploy to the Middle East. He told the court on Tuesday he would base his defense on the fact he wanted to protect the Taliban leadership and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, according to a statement from Fort Hood.

Osborn, tasked with keeping on track a court martial that has seen numerous delays, warned the parties not to be late again with their filings.

"I hear from both sides and then I rule and make the decision. I cannot do that when documents are presented to me less than 30 minutes before we come into" the hearing, she said.

Hasan has asked for a three month delay to the trial, now set for July 1, to prepare his defense after the judge ruled he could represent himself. Osborn said she would consider the request.

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Walter E. Williams

She released the prospective jurors until further notice, delaying jury selection until after the hearing.

Legal experts said the purpose of the hearing is for Hasan to present the legal foundation of his argument that had he not killed and wounded U.S. military personnel at the base they would have been deployed and posed a threat to the Taliban.

(Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Andrew Hay)