It's day five for the trial of accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan.
Several interesting things could come up today. First of all, Hasan's "standby counsel" are preparing an emergency writ to halt the trial. Former lead defense attorney Lt. Col Kris R. Poppe has said he believes Hasan is working "in concert with" prosecutors to secure a death sentence. Now Hasan's beleaguered legal team wants to either be further distanced from the case or take over Hasan's defense entirely. I checked with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals this morning. According to the clerk, they have not received any filings as of about 8:30 a.m. EST.
We have been pushing through the testimony of shooting victims for the past few days in court. About 20 have already testimony, leaving approximately 10 left. Though their testimony is compelling, I am looking forward the testimony of law enforcement involved in the case. That could begin today.
In case you missed it, here's my story about the spotty track record the U.S. military has with death sentencing in military courts. On Friday, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals struck down the death sentence of Senior Airman Andrew P. Witt, who was sentenced to execution for brutally stabbing two to death and critically wounding a fellow airman in 2004.
I did not go into the details as to why the court struck down Witt's sentence. Essentially, judges found Witt's government-appointed defense attorneys did not perform an adequate investigation of mitigating factors during his sentencing. The appeals court agreed Witt is guilty of the crime, but chided the defense for not taking the advice of a mitigation specialist. He had recommended doctors perform brain scans on Witt to see if there were any residual affects from a head injury he suffered during a motorcycle accident four months prior to the murders.
They did not follow that advice. "[I]t appears undisputed that certain types of brain damage or disease from which the appellant may have suffered are often implicated in disinhibited emotional and aggressive behavior," a judge wrote. The court orders the case remanded back to the lower military court for another sentencing hearing.
The ruling leaves only four people left on death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Twelve of 16 sentences have been struck down since the death penalty was reinstated. No member of any branch of the armed forces has been executed since 1961.
For up-to-the-minute updates, check @KDHcrime.
More media than I expected returned for week two of the trial. CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, the Associated Press and Reuter's join regional and local network affiliates.
The Los Angeles Times via KDH takes a close look at the make-up of Hasan's all-officer jury. The reporter writes the jury is "an elite group of Army officers operating under a military legal system that must strike a delicate balance."
USA Today suggests Hasan is not questioning witnesses in order to move as quickly as possible to the sentencing phase, where he will be able to more freely espouse his extremist Islamic views. "It'll be the only opportunity he'll have to talk about his warped philosophy and why he did what he did," [Geoffrey Corn, a former Army judge advocate who teaches military and national security law at South Texas College of Law in Houston] said. "He just wants to get it over with so he can get to the stand."