FORT HOOD — The latest round of legal jousting in the case against the accused Fort Hood shooter is whether his capital murder court-martial should be held on post.
Maj. Nidal Hasan will be in a Fort Hood courtroom Wednesday to retread multiple motions previously ruled upon by the previous judge in the case.
The post announced Monday that military judge Col. Tara Osborn will review a defense request to move the location of the court-martial and invalidate the pool of officers that have been preselected as possible members of the jury.
Osborn has given Hasan’s defense wide latitude in challenging several rulings by the previous judge. An appeals court threw that judge off the case after ruling he had shown an appearance of bias against Hasan.
Hasan, 42, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Hasan’s military-appointed defense team is attempting to move the court-martial off post, stating it would be impossible to hold any fair trial in such proximity to the site of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting.
The defense also challenged the pool of officers preselected as possible members of the jury.
Former 1st Cavalry Staff Judge Advocate Richard Rosen said lawyers and the previous judge have already taken precautions to ensure Hasan will get a fair trial on post.
“I don’t understand the objection there because they’re going to get a panel of people that weren’t at Fort Hood at the time of the shooting,” said Rosen, who is now a law professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
Prospective panel members were selected from commissioned officers stationed throughout the continental U.S. Each officer was required to answer a questionnaire with more than 200 questions. No officers who are now stationed at Fort Hood will be selected.
Rosen said Hasan’s defense team was extremely thorough. Their repeated challenges to numerous aspects into the case effectively delayed the trial for about one year and resulted in the removal of one judge.
“I think they’re trying to do whatever they can for their client,” he said. “I think they’re just trying to cover their tracks, which may in the end help the government.”
Death sentences in military trials are often overturned following conviction, usually on the basis of unprepared counsel for the defense. Rosen said the diligence of Hasan’s lawyers, while providing a robust defense, would limit any claim of ineffective counsel on appeal.
In addition to challenges to the venue and panel selection, the court will review some procedural rules for sentencing hearings Wednesday. The judge also scheduled a hearing for March 20 to review the admissibility of testimony from a terrorist expert for the prosecution.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553