Fort Hood shooting suspect to represent himself in court

The army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 will represent himself when his trial begins next month, the latest twist in a long-delayed case that is likely to provide him with a stage to promote his radical Islamic beliefs.

The judge overseeing the court-martial of Major Nidal Malik Hasan approved his request to release his court-appointed military lawyers and determined that he was physically and mentally capable of representing himself. Mr Hasan was shot by police at the time of the attack and is paralysed below the chest.

He has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 shooting in Killeen, Texas. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Representing himself means he may cross-examine witnesses and there is also the possibility that he will interview prospective jurors when selection of the panel starts.

Experts said Mr Hasan could not do as effective a job defending himself as his lawyers have done. His lead lawyer, Lieutenant-Colonel Kris Poppe, helped him keep the beard that became a focus of pretrial hearings and delayed the trial.

Mr Hasan said he grew his beard out of devotion to his faith, in violation of army grooming regulations. The previous judge overseeing the case had ordered Mr Hasan to be forcibly shaved, but a military appeals court removed the judge because of an appearance of bias.

”One possibility is that he wants to use this trial as a platform, and he wants to make a spectacle of it,” said Geoffrey Corn, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

Mr Hasan, a US-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, has so far been a calm presence in the courtroom, referring to the judge as ”ma’am” and removing his knit cap before she enters the room.

New York Times

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