FORT HOOD — Maj. Nidal Hasan’s attorneys are refusing to help the accused Fort Hood shooter, and said pursuing his “defense of others” strategy would cross an ethical line.
His military-appointed counsel, who have been relegated to an advisory role since Hasan took over his case, said they may ask to withdraw from the case if ordered to help Hasan broadly prepare a defense they disagree with.
“They believe I should not pursue the defense of thirds, and by assisting me they are violating an ethical line,” said Hasan, referring to his previously stated strategy to frame the mass shooting as protection of members of the Taliban.
Judge Col. Tara Osborn gave former lead defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris Poppe until noon today to provide sealed motions as to why they cannot provide Hasan legal opinions regarding research. No additional hearings were set when Osborn ended the Tuesday hearing.
Hasan could face the death penalty if found guilty of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. The 42-year-old Army psychiatrist is widely believed to be the perpetrator of the Nov. 5, 2009, mass shooting on post.
At a hearing last week, Osborn ordered Hasan’s three standby counsel to provide any legal work Hasan requests. They instead deferred to a paralegal, which Hasan said has created “obstacles” in preparing his defense.
“I got research from the paralegal, but I wanted their opinion on which cases were best to use, which ones supported my argument,” Hasan said.
Osborn again told the attorneys Tuesday to help Hasan assemble his case in any way he wishes as long as it does not interfere with his self-representation.
“I’m certain that crosses a line,” Poppe said.
Issues arising from Hasan’s effort to represent himself have mired the court-martial proceedings for weeks. Additionally, he asked for three months to prepare for trial. The trial was set to begin May 29.
Osborn told the court she could not rule on the three-month delay or any other request until the nature of assistance from Hasan’s standby counsel is resolved.
A former staff judge advocate at Fort Hood said standby counsel may be obligated to assist Hasan. However, Texas Tech University law professor Richard Rosen said standby counsel should fight Hasan’s requests until ordered to participate by the judge.
“The defense makes no sense at all,” Rosen said. “It is frivolous. We don’t have treason in the armed forces, but it would be treason. It’s absurd and I wouldn’t help out with it, either.”