By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan entered the back of the courtroom at 8:28 Tuesday morning at Fort Hood's judicial center, wheeling himself past fewer than a dozen reporters, a sketch artist and a handful of soldiers in Army Combat Uniforms.
Two, low swinging doors were held open for him as he guided his wheelchair through and was positioned at the end of a long wood table. Maj. Christopher Martin, John Galligan and Lt. Col. Kris Poppe - Hasan's defense team - filled the spaces next to him. Across the aisle stood the prosecution, led by Col. Mike Mulligan.
Mulligan led the prosecution of Sgt. Hasan Akbar in 2005. Akbar was convicted in the 2003 grenade attacks at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait, and sentenced to death. That conviction is on appeal, according to information from the Army.
Col. James Pohl was appointed to preside over Hasan's Article 32 hearing.
If Pohl's name sounds familiar it's because this isn't his first high-profile Army case. Or his second. Or his third. His name is associated with cases that surround the USS Cole bombing, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
Before Pohl called the proceedings to order, Hasan spoke closely with Galligan, a retired colonel and former Army judge.
Soldiers in the courtroom were quietly asked to adjust the courtroom's thermostat and before long, the room went from a brisk 68 degrees to a slightly uncomfortable 73.
Hasan talked little with his lawyers once business began. Martin leaned over occasionally and spoke briefly.
Hasan never spoke aloud unless to answer Pohl several times with a "Yes, sir." He faced the judge and rarely looked anywhere but in front of him and up at the judge. The most Hasan spoke aloud was while answering a question for Pohl.
"I have no questions," Hasan said almost half an hour after he entered the courtroom.
"I understand, sir," he said at 9 a.m. when asked by Pohl whether he understood that his defense team's request for another delay in the Article 32 would impede on his right to a speedy trial.
Seven minutes into the proceedings, Martin stood up and unfolded a large green blanket. He draped it around his client and Hasan clutched it around him until Pohl granted the defense's request for a four-month delay at 9:42 a.m.
Hasan was wheeled through a set of doors behind the judge's stand as his lawyer turned to speak with reporters. A handful of uniformed civilians stepped in front of the room into which Hasan disappeared.
Galligan told the reporters gathered around him that Hasan was transported to Fort Hood from the Bell County Jail, where he is held during pre-trial confinement, in leg shackles. Hasan is paralyzed from the chest down, Galligan has said often in the media.
"I'm telling you, it's all show," Galligan said while standing in the courtroom Tuesday.
He compared the security in the judicial center to D-Day before joining Hasan in the secured room behind the judge's stand.
Galligan later talked about Hasan's medical issues, saying he's dealt with everything from bedsores to blood in his urine and fecal matter. Hasan is prone to chills and his core body temperature is a constant concern, Galligan said.
"He's not a flight risk," the defense attorney said when questioned about Hasan's leg shackles and medical condition, adding that he still has difficulty dragging himself from his wheelchair to his bed.
Providing Hasan with adequate restroom facilities and breaks during court proceedings is a concern, Galligan said. He went on to criticize Hasan's pre-trial confinement, saying his client needed a nurse, not a guard, by his side. When questioned, Galligan said Fort Hood's Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center would be a better facility to house Hasan.