Fort Hood Gunman Wants To Represent Himself At Court Martial
Major Nidal Hassan is asking a military judge to allow him to represent himself in his Court Martial related to the murder charges brought against him for the shootings at Fort Hood:
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Accused Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal Hasan will ask a U.S. military court on Wednesday to rule he can represent himself at his trial this summer which could bring the death penalty on charges he killed 13 people in a 2009 shooting rampage.
Jury selection in Hasan’s military trial at Fort Hood was delayed until next week after he asked the judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, to let him fire his lawyers and represent himself. The trial is scheduled to start July 1.
Hasan is accused of opening fire on a group of soldiers who were preparing to deploy to Iraq in November 2009 in the worst shooting rampage on a U.S. military post. In addition to the 13 people who died, 32 others were wounded.
Two civilian Fort Hood police officers shot Hasan, ending the rampage and leaving the Army psychiatrist paralyzed from the chest down. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted of premeditated murder.
Osborn has little choice but to grant Hasan’s request to represent himself under U.S. law, which could pose problems for prosecutors and create more avenues for appeal, the military law experts said. She is likely to appoint lawyers to assist Hasan.
“It is going to prolong everything and will make everything more difficult, all throughout the process,” said Victor M. Hansen, a professor at the New England School of Law in Boston and a former Army defense attorney.
Military law experts said the move could make Hasan’s court martial more challenging for prosecutors and painful for witnesses who may be questioned by the man accused of wounding them, or killing their family members.
“It is hard enough for the victim of an attempted murder or the family member of someone who has been murdered, to come into a courtroom and sit across the room from a man who they are convinced did this,” said Geoffrey Corn, a retired lieutenant colonel and veteran Army prosecutor.
This is often true, of course, in any case where a Defendant seeks to represent himself and, given the 6th Amendment, there’s really nothing that courts can do to stop it, even in the military. One advantage in this case is that the presiding judge in a military trial does have greater control over the proceedings than civilian judges do in many respects, so Hassan may not be able to get away with much.
Another point this reminds me of is that over the next month, three high profile cases will be going to trial. Hassan’s trial starts July 1st, Bradley Manning’s Court Martial starts June 3rd, and the George Zimmerman trial starts June 20th. It’s going to be an interesting summer.