The Army psychiatrist accused of perpetrating the worst mass shooting on a military base in U.S. history will be back in court today in what could be the final day of jury selection.
Maj. Nidal Hasan will have another chance to question prospective jurors individually. The Army brought in six additional officers to fill out a possible jury that needs at least 13 members.
During hearings last week, the prosecution challenged half of the 20 officers flown in from across the nation. Those 10 remaining potential panel members — eight men and two women ranked colonel, lieutenant colonel or major — could still be cut.
Hasan, 42, could face the death penalty if convicted of numerous charges arising from the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting. He is accused of killing 13 people at the post’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center.
Hasan since told the court he believes the killings were justified as a “defense of others” strategy in which he claims he was defending the Taliban.
Last week, nearly all of his questions to potential jurors revolved around the officers’ opinions toward Islam, the Taliban and fundamentalist Islamic law, known as Sharia.
The court originally expected seating a jury would be an arduous, time consuming task. Presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn blocked off four weeks to select a panel of between 13 and 16 members from a pool of officers who all had at least some pretrial exposure to media reports on the mass shooting.
Instead, selection has been an easier and quicker process, due mostly to Hasan opting to conduct questioning himself.
The major told the court last week that he elected to tell his jury consultant to skip the hearings. Hasan challenged none of the potential jurors last week, despite multiple officers stating they already believed he was guilty or had a negative opinion of fundamentalist Islam.
Instead, Hasan attempted to use his questions to communicate his identification with convicted terrorists and to tell all potential panel members he committed the shooting.
If jury selection wraps up today, the court will recess until Aug. 6, when testimony is set to begin.