FORT HOOD — Maj. Nidal Hasan’s former defense counsel said the accused Fort Hood shooter is throwing his case to get the death penalty.
Former lead defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris R. Poppe said he believes Hasan is “acting in concert” with the prosecution to guarantee a death sentence.
“It’s become clear his goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty,” Poppe said.
He said presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn should either dismiss the entire legal team from the case or wrestle its control from Hasan.
Surprise motion halts trial
Poppe’s surprise motion halted proceedings while Osborn mulls his request. Hearings resume at 9 a.m. today, where presumably she will rule on Poppe’s request.
Hasan objected to Poppe’s characterization of the defense, telling the court the Army lawyer’s comments were a “twist of the facts.”
Poppe filed a motion to “modify” the three-lawyer defense team’s role as stand-by counsel late Tuesday. His defense team has been relegated to serving only in an advisory capacity since June 4 when the judge allowed Hasan to serve as his own lawyer.
Osborn’s ruling placed the attorneys in an “ethical dilemma,” which Poppe said began when Hasan flubbed the jury selection portion of the trial last month. Moreover, Poppe said, Hasan hurt his case by releasing trial documents to Fox News and telling the jury “I am the shooter.”
Osborn said Poppe’s motion “was at war with itself,” because the defense team asks to withdraw from the case and to assume complete control of it simultaneously.
Poppe said the team would be ready to resume representing Hasan if he could no longer represent himself.
“Should he decide he wants to fight the death penalty, then we are here and ready to defend him,” Poppe said.
Hasan told the court he attacked soldiers on Nov. 5, 2009, to protect the Taliban.
His rhetoric has often revolved around Islamic extremism, which may have led his stand-by counsel to believe he wants to make himself into a martyr.
“(Poppe’s) job is to avoid the death penalty, and Hasan might be aiming right at it,” said Richard Rosen, a former staff judge advocate at Fort Hood who teaches law at Texas Tech University.
Hasan repeatedly told the judge he wished to clarify Poppe’s comments during Tuesday’s hearing. The judge urged him to file a sealed response.
When Hasan told the judge he wished to speak to her in person, she ordered the courtroom cleared and held a closed hearing with Hasan and his stand-by counsel.
After about 20 minutes, Osborn recessed the court for the day.
Key dates in Hasan’s defense
Nov. 10, 2009: Belton attorney John Galligan, a retired colonel, and then-Maj. Christopher Martin begin representing Hasan.
June 2, 2010: Lt. Col. Kris R. Poppe appears in the court for the first time as a part of Hasan’s defense team.
July 21, 2011: Hasan fires Galligan from his defense team, Poppe assumes lead role.
June 4, 2013: Judge allows Hasan to fire his military-appointed defense team and begin to represent himself. Defense team becomes “stand-by” counsel, assuming an advisory role.
June 11, 2013: Hasan’s former defense team asks to be dismissed from the case, tells court cannot assist Hasan with “defense of others.”
June 15, 2013: “Defense of others” prohibited, stand-by counsel remain.
July 2, 2013: Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark expresses interest in representing Hasan, but is not retained.
Aug. 7, 2013: Stand-by counsel asks to be removed from Hasan’s case or assume its control.