FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An Army psychiatrist going on trial in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting wants to tell potential jurors that he's being forced to wear a military uniform he believes represents "an enemy of Islam," he told a judge Tuesday.
Hours before jury selection was to begin in Maj. Nidal Hasan's court-martial, last-minute issues were addressed at a morning hearing. It's unclear if the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, will allow him to make that statement to potential jurors.
In this courtroom sketch, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, right, sits by his former defense attorneys Maj. Joseph Marcee, far left, and Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, center, with Judge, Col. Tara Osborn, behind the bench during a pretrial hearing, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas. Jury selection is set to start Tuesday in the long-awaited murder trial of Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of opening fire with a semi-automatic gun at Fort Hood nearly four years ago. Credit: AP
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, must wear a uniform during his murder trial. Military defendants usually wear a dress uniform during a court-martial. However, both sides and the judge have agreed that Hasan can wear a camouflage uniform worn by troops in combat because it better meets his health-related needs as a paraplegic.
Hasan was paralyzed from the abdomen down after being shot by police the day of the rampage.
Hasan, 42, faces execution or life without parole if convicted in the rampage that killed 13 and wounded nearly three dozen on the Texas Army post.
Potential jurors, who must be of Hasan's rank or higher, have already filled out a questionnaire prepared by prosecutors and the defense. The first pool of 20 potential jurors — three majors, five lieutenant colonels and 12 colonels — were to be brought in Tuesday afternoon from Army posts nationwide.
Hasan, who is serving as his own attorney but can get help from his former defense attorneys, will have a jury consultant on hand. Jury selection is expected to last at least a month, and once testimony starts in August, that could take another two months.
Groups of 20 will be brought in each week until 13 jurors are chosen for Hasan's trial. The initial jury pool was 140 officers, but because of several delays, some have left the military through retirement or their service ending, Fort Hood officials said.
Death-penalty cases in the military require at least 12 jury members, more than in other cases. And unlike other trials, their verdict must be unanimous in finding guilt or assessing a sentence.
Several soldiers who survived the mass shooting said Monday that they hoped no last-minute problems would again delay the case. They said waiting to testify in Hasan's court-martial has caused them to miss family reunions, vacations and other events.
"I'll believe it when it happens, because there's been so many delays," said retired Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning, who was shot six times during the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage inside a medical building. "We've been given a window (of when to testify) on and off since 2010."