FORT HOOD — Jury selection for the capital murder trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan began Tuesday, bringing to an end a phase of the case plagued by repeated stops and starts.
The seating of a jury could take weeks to complete. The prosecution and defense are allowed to question each potential juror individually before offering any challenges.
Twenty officers from across the United States were questioned as a group Tuesday, starting the trial more than 3½ years after Hasan allegedly killed 13 and wounded 32 during a shooting rampage on post.
The court dismissed six jurors based on their answers to a pretrial questionnaire, including an officer who knew one of the victims and had close ties to the Soldier Resource Processing Center where the mass shooting occurred.
Hasan asked no questions of the group, which consisted of 12 colonels, five lieutenant colonels and three majors, and showed no resistance to the removal of the six jurors challenged by the prosecution.
Hasan will have the opportunity to question the remaining panel members individually today.
However, whether Hasan makes any challenges or asks any questions remains up in the air. Toward the end of Tuesday’s hearings, he told the judge that panel selection should occur at a faster rate than the judge anticipates.
Additionally, Hasan’s jury selection consultant, Jeffrey Frederick, was not present in the courtroom Tuesday.
Prior to jury selection, Hasan asked the court to instruct the panel members that the Army has forced him to wear a military uniform while in court.
“I don’t take any pride in wearing this uniform,” he told the court. “I think it represents an enemy of Islam.”
Hasan also announced he would not retain former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark as long as the presiding judge, Col. Tara Osborn, refuses to allow him to present his “defense of thirds” strategy.
Osborn reiterated her ruling, and Hasan notified the court he would then proceed acting as his own attorney.
“The court’s ruling is the defense of others fails as a matter of law,” Osborn said.
Hasan has long sought to frame the mass shooting on post as an act that prevented the deaths of Taliban fighters and the group’s leadership in Afghanistan, according to his former defense attorney.
The major then changed his mind, abandoning the defense in hopes of being able to plead guilty to all charges after members of the Muslim community reached out to him, telling him he broke his military oath and went against Islam when he admittedly opened fire on soldiers and civilians on Nov. 5, 2009.
Military rules prevented Hasan from pleading guilty to any charges, as he originally wished to do last summer.
Hasan has since returned to his original belief. He told the court last week that he has not violated his oath to the Army because the war in Afghanistan is illegal.
With his defense strategy neutered, Hasan’s former defense attorney John Galligan said Hasan’s presence in the Fort Hood courtroom now is nothing more than to act as a “prop.”
Jury selection resumes at 9 a.m. today. Testimony is scheduled to begin Aug. 6.