FORT HOOD — Maj. Nidal Hasan questioned jurors’ opinions on the Taliban, Sharia and Islam in general Wednesday during the second day of jury selection for his capital murder trial.
The court dismissed four potential jurors based on their answers to questions from Hasan and prosecutors. Hasan did not challenge the inclusion of any of the nine officers questioned Wednesday and did not oppose exclusions proposed by the government.
The dismissals left 10 remaining jurors, three below the total required to seat a jury. The government will bring in six more potential panel members Monday and resume the selection process. Testimony remains set to begin Aug. 6.
Each potential juror may be questioned individually because Hasan may be executed if found guilty. He is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Sending four prospective jurors home ended a day in which Hasan repeatedly said the judge’s rulings and advice “frustrated” him. He again repeated his objection to the ruling that threw out his “defense of others” claim and was prohibited from telling jurors he carried out the shooting.
“I would like to state my frustration that I cannot state that I am the shooter on Nov. 5, 2009,” Hasan said. “I do not deny that I am the shooter.”
Presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn advised Hasan the statement would amount to testimony. Osborn told Hasan he could rephrase his questions in hypothetical terms.
She offered to allow Hasan a few minutes to prepare questions and gave him examples of how similar questions could be posed without stating he was the shooter. Hasan refused her advice.
The prosecution objected to the first question posed by Hasan. He told a colonel he identified with a Muslim extremist, Abdulhakim Mujahid Mohammed, who shot and killed an Army private outside a Little Rock, Ark., recruitment center in 2009.
Hasan called Mohammed “my brother and my friend” and asked if that would cause any bias against him.
The colonel replied “no.” She remains a part of the jury pool.
Hasan’s questions centered on hard-line Muslim beliefs. Most of the jurors he questioned said they had a “somewhat negative” view toward Islam, Sharia and the Taliban.
The final juror questioned, a major, said she had an unfavorable view of Sharia, or Islamic law.
“It certainly seems like something I would not want to live under, that it would pretty much suck to be in that society, especially as a woman,” she said.
Hasan asked the major what she did not like about Sharia.
She replied that she has been allowed to advance in her career with, in most cases, the same rights and opportunities as men. That would not be the case under Sharia, she said.
“I can walk anywhere; I’m not covered in a burqa,” she said. “I’m just glad it is not where I am.”
Neither the prosecution nor Hasan challenged her suitability to serve on the panel.
In what could be characterized as cordial exchanges between Hasan and potential jurors, one lieutenant colonel told Hasan he became somewhat disillusioned with Muslims he met in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.
He told Hasan royals he met there showed double standards toward practicing the religion at home and in the U.S. After being prompted, he told Hasan he believed it was hypocrisy.
Hasan thanked him on behalf of all Muslims for expressing that viewpoint.
However, that officer was later dismissed after telling the court he believed Hasan was guilty and that he knew many details about the mass shooting through military police training in “active shooter” scenarios.
The court dismissed another lieutenant colonel who served on an assignment with the brother of shooting victim Logan Burnett. The officer told the court he spoke with Burnett’s brother weekly and knew the former soldier suffered permanent damage from gunshot wounds.
“In terms of what happened that day, who the shooter was, I have an opinion on that, that Maj. Hasan pulled the trigger and killed 13 that day,” the lieutenant colonel said.
Prospective jurors have known for 14 months they could be picked for trial. One of the dismissed panelists, a colonel, said the repeated delays had “hijacked” and held him “hostage.” He said it adversely affected his career and created some bias against Hasan.
The final officer dismissed Wednesday, a major, knew the judge through the work of his sister, an Army lawyer who died in the fall. Lead prosecutor Col. Mike Mulligan also notified the major he had worked with his sister on another death penalty trial.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.