By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - Maj. Nidal Hasan appeared in court Friday wearing a full beard, causing a judge to halt the pre-trial hearing because Hasan's appearance broke military regulations.
In warning the 41-year-old Army psychiatrist accused in the Nov. 5, 2009, mass shooting at Fort Hood, military judge Col. Gregory Gross said Hasan's beard was a disruption to court proceedings. Gross said he would remove Hasan from the courtroom at future hearings if he did not appear clean-shaven.
Military regulations prohibit soldiers from growing facial hair beyond a well-kept mustache.
Lawyers intended to litigate several motions Friday, including a request to delay the court-martial to Dec. 2. Hasan's refusal to comply with military regulations might be grounds for denying that request, said Gross.
"What is happening here, the accused is causing you to defer your interests from trial," said Gross during Hasan's 15-minute court appearance. "I'm inclined to deny (the motion for a continuance.)"
Hasan's attorney, Lt. Col. Kris R. Poppe, said his client grew a beard for religious reasons. Poppe attempted to persuade Gross to allow the hearing to continue, noting that in December the Army granted an exemption to an orthodox Jewish officer with a full beard who enlisted as a chaplain.
Hasan intends to file a request for an exception to the policy with a higher command, said Poppe.
"I will go along with their wishes, but until then, we're following my rules," said Gross.
The Article 39 hearing was rescheduled for sometime next week. No specific date was provided. Gross said he will have the Army prepare to have a closed-circuit television in place so Hasan can watch the proceedings from another room if he does not appear clean shaven.
Hasan's court-martial was originally set to begin March 5, but has since been delayed twice. It is currently scheduled to start Aug. 20.
During previous hearings, Hasan's defense has argued that the amount of evidence - hundreds of thousands of documents - has required extensive review, which would not be completed by the time the court-martial is set to start.
The defense also has submitted motions to compel discovery and for government funding to pay for a neurologist.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.