• October 25, 2014

Hasan offers few objections at hearing

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Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 2:13 pm, Thu Jan 23, 2014.

FORT HOOD — Accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan offered little resistance Thursday to evidence prosecutors plan to show during his upcoming court-martial.

Included in that is one of the more harrowing accounts of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting in which one of the victims, a pregnant soldier who died at the scene, shouted “My baby, my baby!”

Pfc. Francheska Velez was pregnant when Hasan allegedly shot her at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on post. Hasan could face the death penalty if convicted of numerous capital charges arising from the mass shooting that left Velez and 12 others dead.

Hasan did challenge the admissibility of witness testimony from people who heard Velez’s shouts, stating briefly those statements would unfairly portray the shooting.

“The prejudice outweighs the probative value in my opinion,” Hasan said.

Presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn denied his request.

During the hourlong hearing, Hasan opted to concede several prosecution motions without argument and proceeded on other matters he appeared to have only lightly reviewed.

The 42-year-old Army psychiatrist had no objections to prosecutors’ intention to include a video of the crime scene, photos of victims and FBI diagrams in their opening statement.

He also did not challenge the admission of email communications between him and American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki referencing attacks on soldiers. Al-Awlaki, a member of the leadership of a sect of al-Qaida, was killed by a drone strike in 2011 in Yemen.

In one exchange, Hasan asks al-Awlaki about the morality of killing soldiers who are fighting Muslims.

Despite no challenges, Osborn told the prosecution the presentation of those emails would likely strictly limit their presentation and force the government to strike al-Awlaki’s name from the messages.

Osborn also ordered the government to edit the 10-minute crime scene video to take out images of the dead, calling that “cumulative” to pictures of the dead that will also be shown.

Hasan agreed with her rulings and suggestions.

“I am OK with them showing the video, but your notes on redacting the repeated parts, I do like that part,” he said. “That would be nice if they redact the repeated parts.”

South College of Law Professor Geoffrey Corn, an expert in military law, said the judge found herself in a problematic situation where she must balance allowing Hasan to make strategy errors with her desire to conduct a proper trial.

“He decides to represent himself, so he gets to make his own mistakes,” said Corn, a retired lieutenant colonel who served as the lead prosecutor for the 101st Airborne.

“The judge, in an effort to protect the record and to make sure (Hasan) makes no catastrophic mistakes would almost play the role of almost looking out for him,” he said. “I don’t think she should be doing that because the Supreme Court precedent is that he assumes that risk.”

Hasan will enter pleadings at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Military rules prevent him from pleading guilty to death penalty charges, and the judge will likely be forced to enter a not guilty plea for him.

Jury selection remains set to begin July 9, with testimony starting Aug. 6.

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