Hasan to claim "defense of others" in Fort Hood murder trial


by Associated Press, WFAA and KVUE.com

Associated Press

Posted on June 3, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Updated Monday, Jun 3 at 5:16 PM

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- The Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage says he will claim "defense of others" as the reason for the massacre. According to our sister station WFAA, Hasan claims he was defending others during the attack which killed 13.

On Monday a judge said she would allow Maj. Nadal Hasan to represent himself during his murder trial. This means he will get to question potential jurors and cross examine victims he's accused of shooting.

The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, Monday heard a doctor's report about Hasan's physical condition before ruling on his request. The doctor said Hasan would be able to sit for 12 hours with breaks. Hasan is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police the day of the attack at the Texas Army post.

The judge said last week that a report indicates Hasan is mentally competent to represent himself. Jury selection is set to start Wednesday.

Court was in recess until 12:30 p.m. Monday, at which time the judge, prosecutors and Hasan discussed the logistics of the trial scheduled to begin July 1.

WFAA reports that Hasan asked for a three-month delay to ID witnesses and prepare evidence.

Judge Osborn ordered the U.S. Army to set up an office for Hasan by 3 p.m. Monday, since he has no defense team anymore. The judge told Hasan to explain Tuesday why he should be able to wear a beard.

Officials say eighteen portential jurors, or panelists. are coming from out of town for the jury selection process.

Hasan faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.

Col. Osborn made the ruling to let Hasan represent himself after a two-hour hearing Monday morning from inside a heavily fortified courthouse guarded by armed soldiers. She later ordered Army officials to set up an office for Hasan by 3 p.m. this afternoon, as he dismissed his defense team. 

Col. Osborn spent the morning questioning Hasan's knowledge of the seriousness of the crimes he's accused of. 

"The lead prosecutor has over 20 years of criminal law and litigation experience, she said. How are you … going to know what to do?"

“I’m going to do the best I can do,” he responded.

"I’m assuming you’re aware of the charges against you. Why don’t you tell me what they are?" Col. Osborn stated. 

“Multiple counts of premeditated murder,” Hasan, 42, said softly.

“How many?,” the judge replied. 

“13,” Hasan said.

“All right. What else?,” Osborn asked.

“Uh, 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder,” Hasan added after a brief pause as he read the charges.

“All right so you’re aware of the charges against you. You understand those charges have been referred as capital offenses?,” Col. Osborn continued.

“Yes ma’am,” Hasan responded.

“What does that mean?,” the judge asked.

“Death penalty is possible,” he said.

“These are very complex and serious charges,” Col. Osborn said.

“Yes they are,” he added. “I do understand that.” 

“Do you understand you’d be better off with a trained lawyer?” the judge asked. 

“I understand the courts would view this as me waiving effective counsel,” he said. 

“But when you’re representing yourself, many times you become personally involved in the case and it’s very difficult for you to have an objective view of the case. Basically what I’m telling you is the general rule of representing yourself is not a good policy,” the judge said.

“Would you like to talk to another lawyer about this case?,” Col. Osborn asked.

“Not at this point,” Maj. Hasan said.

 “You cannot make any speeches and try to testify,” she added. 

The judge again implored Hasan to rethink his request.

“I think it’s unwise for you to represent yourself and I’m strongly urging you to not represent yourself,” she said. “Do you still want represent yourself?” 

“Yes ma’am,” he responded.

“Do you want counsel to remain at counsel table?” Col. Osborn asked.

“With the exception of Maj. Martin, yes,” Hasan said. He added that he didn’t want Maj. Christopher Martin on his military-appointed defense team anymore.

Survivors of the shooting have expressed anxiety about Hasan cross-examining them at trial. 

“It’s a huge concern,” said Army Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, now retired. “People are basically saying ‘how do they expect us to act?’” 

“They need to think about the repercussions of him representing himself and what that might do to the victims and families of the deceased,” Sgt. Lunsford explained. 

The former Army medic said Maj. Hasan shot him seven times, once in the head at close range and six times in his body. Blind now in his left eye, Sgt. Lunsford also lost half of his intestines while trying to recover from the 2009 attack.

“We’ve gone through major life changes,” he said. “He’s being treated like he’s the victim. What’s going to stop one of us from jumping across that table?”

Hasan, a devout Muslim, was an Army psychiatrist who opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was weeks away from being deployed when he was accused of committing the mass murder. 

Wearing a bushy black and gray beard, Hasan testified that he spends most of his time reading the Koran while confined to his cell at the Bell County Jail in nearby Belton.

Hasan told the judge he dresses himself in his Army uniform every morning before breakfast at 4:30 a.m.

“I use a handrail to pull myself up and I slide my legs over the side of the bed,” Hasan testified. “The wheelchair is next to my bed and I’m able to transfer to the wheelchair.”

“After getting dressed I begin my morning prayers,” he added.

Hasan said he reads the Koran for two hours in the morning.

“I fast quite frequently and skip lunch," he said. 

Selection of a panel, known as a jury in the military justice system, begins Wednesday. Hasan’s trial is scheduled to start on July 1.