Military judges ruled Thursday that the U.S. Army can forcibly shave accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan for his impending court-martial.
A panel of six judges with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously denied Hasan’s appeal of a Fort Hood judge’s order to have the accused terrorist shaved by force.
The ruling will likely trigger another round of appeals by Hasan’s defense team. A news release from Fort Hood Public Affairs stated Hasan’s lawyers intend to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the highest military appeals court.
The 42-year-old Army psychiatrist is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for his suspected role in the Nov. 5, 2009, mass shooting at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center.
Hasan’s trial was set to begin Aug. 20, but became mired in appeals after Hasan arrived in court wearing a full beard in June. His appearance defied strict military regulations on appearance, and led him to be held in contempt of court and fined several times.
Hasan claims a premonition that his death is imminent led him into a more intense devotion as a Muslim and a religious compulsion to wear a beard.
The Fort Hood judge presiding over the case ordered Hasan to be shaved after prosecutors presented evidence that he may have non-religious reasons for having facial hair.
At the time, government prosecutors submitted a transcript of a phone call between Hasan and a reporter from Al-Jazeera.
In that conversation, Hasan apologized to the Mujahedeen “for participating in the illegal and immoral aggression against Muslims,” the ruling states.
Prosecutors argued that Hasan’s decision to grow a beard served only to defy the authority of his military superiors and as a “manifestation of his allegiance to the Muhajedeen,” it states.
But the judges ruled Thursday that even if Hasan could prove that his motivations were solely out of practice of his religion, the government still has the authority to forcibly shave him.
Citing military regulations and case law at the U.S. Supreme Court, the judges ruled that in order to preserve unit cohesion, discipline and morale, the government can forcibly shave Hasan.
The court also denied the defense’s request to have the presiding military judge, Col. Gregory Gross, removed from the case, though the ruling was not unanimous.
Two judges wrote dissenting opinions stating that Gross acted improperly in ordering Hasan shaved. They stated that any order to shave Hasan should have come from Hasan’s chain of command.
Gross could have compelled the Army to either allow Hasan to be in court or shave him by either holding the government in contempt of court or by staying the case, the opinion states.