FORT HOOD — The military judge in the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan questioned whether prosecutors should present some of the more gruesome and evocative items they intend to use in the upcoming capital murder trial of the accused Fort Hood shooter.
The mountain of evidence against Hasan, the 42-year-old Army psychiatrist accused of carrying out a Nov. 5, 2009, shooting spree on post that killed 13, includes more than 400,000 pages of discovery.
Presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn said Thursday some of the items could be prejudicial against Hasan and sway a jury toward a guilty verdict despite having little to do with whether he is guilty or innocent.
Osborn only ruled on a small portion of the evidence, prohibiting the prosecution from showing “in life” photos of the victims during opening statements. She previously ruled the prosecution cannot show a crime scene video during that same phase.
“It only increases the possibility that the panel will rule based on sympathy and not on the merits,” Osborn said.
Hasan did not challenge the inclusion of the photos or the numerous other pieces of evidence reviewed during the hearing. However, he did agree with the judge that use of autopsy photos should be used as little as possible.
“As long as they do their best to preserve the dignity of the dead, I have no objections,” he said.
The judge questioned the usefulness of some of the more macabre evidence, including hundreds of autopsy and crime scene photos, an eight-minute video of the scene and a dashboard camera video in which lead prosecutor Col. Mike Mulligan said a gunfight between Hasan and Fort Hood police can be overheard.
Prosecutors also wish to play a 911 phone call in which the dying breaths of Pfc. Michael Pearson can be heard, and show photos of victims with times of death written in marker on their foreheads by a sergeant performing triage at the scene of the mass shooting.
“There is a lot of blood in these pictures,” Mulligan said. “Forty-five were shot and 13 died. Many of them never left the building. You can’t be protective to what happened there. It is prejudicial, but it’s not unfairly prejudicial. It shows what (Hasan) did.”
Hasan told the court he would be willing to concede several facts.
“That would save a lot of time in showing pictures of people I killed,” he said.
Prosecutor Col. Steve Henricks said allowing Hasan to stipulate that would be “dangerously close” to pleading guilty.
Hasan’s next hearing is Wednesday. There will be a final pretrial hearing Aug. 5 to seat a jury. Testimony will begin Aug. 6.
A jury of 13 officers, ranging from major to colonel, was selected for the case. If they unanimously find Hasan guilty, he could face execution.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.