A judge will require the Army psychiatrist accused of the Fort Hood shooting to enter pleas today to more than 40 charges leveled against him for his upcoming capital murder trial.
Despite Maj. Nidal Hasan’s previously stated willingness to plead guilty to all charges, military rules and a previous ruling by the presiding judge will prevent him from entering guilty pleas at a hearing on post today.
Jury selection for Hasan’s trial is set to begin July 9, with testimony starting Aug. 6. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
“You kind of wonder why they want him in the courtroom,” said Belton attorney John Galligan. “The call on him tomorrow is a lot of wasted effort, because what is the purpose or point when (Hasan) has no real choice over there? The judge has effectively said, ‘I’m not going to let you plea.’”
In March, the presiding judge, Col. Tara Osborn, ruled that Hasan cannot plead guilty to any charges, including the 32 noncapital charges of attempted premeditated murder.
Osborn ruled those charges were too closely intertwined with Hasan’s 13 capital murder charges for a jury to objectively separate them. A guilty plea to attempted murder charges would be an admission of guilt to the death penalty charges, she ruled.
“They are all part and parcel of the same crime,” said Texas Tech University law professor Richard Rosen, a former staff judge advocate for III Corps at Fort Hood.
Should Hasan tell the court he wishes to plead guilty, Osborn will be forced to enter a not guilty plea on his behalf.
The judge has prevented Hasan from pursuing his desired defense strategy. Hasan intended to present a narrative framing the Nov. 5, 2009, mass shooting on post as a protection of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
Hasan, a Sunni Muslim experts have called a “home grown terrorist,” was set to deploy to Afghanistan when he allegedly opened fire at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center.
Galligan, Hasan’s former defense attorney, said Osborn’s decision to preclude his defense strategy violates the major’s constitutional rights and may lead to appeals. Galligan has been meeting with Hasan since Hasan was granted the right to represent himself in his court-martial.
“In the eyes of many in the world, he is already a martyr,” Galligan said.