This much we know: Maj. Nidal Hasan, the person accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 others at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009, will represent himself at his court-martial.
The judge granted Hasan’s request on Monday, but his team of military lawyers will stay on to assist the Army psychologist if necessary.
Things are fuzzy, however, when it comes to why Hasan wants to represent himself, and even when the trial will begin. Jury selection was supposed to start today, but that’s not happening. Hasan wants a three-month delay so he can prepare his defense. The judge is supposed to rule on his request today.
Hasan, who has been in the Army 16 years, has been working with various lawyers representing him for more than three years. But just weeks before the trial was to begin, he formally requested to represent himself last month. It was yet another dramatic turn in a series of twists that have marked the legal case, which is getting worldwide attention.
The beard, the ousted judge, the bizarre ways Hasan is transported from the Bell County Jail to the Fort Hood courtroom for each hearing — they‘re all pieces to a puzzle that form the complex nature of the American-born Hasan, a graduate of Virginia Tech.
At stake is justice in one of the worst crimes ever. As survivors of the deadly shooting tell it, Hasan began his attack in a crowded waiting area of the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Armed with a pair of handguns, he fired and fired and fired, ending and changing lives forever. He shot wounded soldiers trying to crawl to safety. He went room to room, searching for victims to shoot. He killed a pregnant woman.
Why does Hasan want to represent himself?
My guess is he wants to own up to his actions. My guess is he wants to say, “Yes, I did it. I shot those people. And I will show the world why.”
We got a glimpse of “why” on Tuesday, when the judge was asking about Hasan’s strategy. Hasan said he was defending “the leaders of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban — Mullah Omar is their leader.”
As a religious extremist, and opposing America’s efforts in the Middle East, Hasan chose to murder his fellow soldiers who were — like him — preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. It was a vicious act, but also a political statement about America’s involvement in Afghanistan. Hasan wanted to publicize his “jihad” and he did it in the most devastating of ways, by killing his unarmed and unsuspecting colleagues.
Because the death penalty is on the table, Hasan is not being allowed to plead guilty, although he has said he would like to. While it may seem sickening to the rest of us, Hasan wants to declare to the world that he shot and killed those people on Nov. 5, 2009. In a way, Hasan is proud of what he did. He set out to commit a vicious act he felt was justified, and in accordance with his view of his religion, that will never change.
Non-believing attorneys, whose strategy was likely to distance Hasan from what actually happened, would only get in the way of that. That’s why Hasan fired them.
Why did he wait this long to fire his attorneys?
Who knows? But Hasan does have a flair for the dramatic.
While Hasan’s efforts to grow a beard, and now represent himself, have delayed the trial, justice is still looming with a heavy sword.
Sooner or later, it will swing.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.