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Judge Blocks Several Key Pieces of Evidence in Fort Hood Trial

"...I am the shooter."

In this courtroom sketch, Maj. Nidal Hasan, second from right, sits with his standby defense attorneys Maj. Joseph Marcee, left, and Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, second from left, as presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn looks on, during Hasan's trial Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan was allowed to continue representing himself on Thursday after the judge barred his standby attorneys from taking over, despite their claims that the Army psychiatrist was trying to secure his own death sentence. (AP)

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- A military judge blocked several key pieces of evidence Monday that prosecutors said would explain the mindset of the soldier accused in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, including his belief that he had a "jihad duty" to carry out the attack.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to approve several witnesses and various evidence to support what they allege motivated Maj. Nidal Hasan to kill 13 people and wound more than 30 others at the Texas military base. But the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, blocked nearly all of it.

In this courtroom sketch, Maj. Nidal Hasan, second from right, sits with his standby defense attorneys Maj. Joseph Marcee, left, and Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, second from left, as presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn looks on, during Hasan's trial Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas. Credit: AP

Osborn barred any reference Hasan Akbar, a Muslim soldier sentenced to death for attacking fellow soldiers in Kuwait during the 2003 Iraq invasion. Prosecutors wanted to prove Hasan's attack was a "copycat," but the judge said introducing such material would "only open the door to a mini-trial" of Akbar.

She also said such evidence would result in a "confusion of issues, unfair prejudice, waste of time and undo delay."

The judge said prosecutors also couldn't introduce three emails, ruling that the needed redactions would make them irrelevant. The contents of the emails were never disclosed, but the FBI has said Hasan sent numerous emails starting in December 2008 to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S.-born Islamic cleric killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

The judge also told prosecutors that they couldn't cite Hasan's interest years ago in conscientious objector status and his past academic presentations. Osborn said such evidence was too old and irrelevant.

However, the judge will allow evidence about Internet searches on Hasan's computer around the time of the attack and websites that Hasan had listed as "favorites." Osborn said that information was more timely.

A soldier walks into the Lawrence H. Williams Judicial Center after the trial for Maj. Nidal Hasan was abruptly recessed at Fort Hood, Texas on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. The standby attorney for the soldier charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage accused Hasan on Wednesday of deliberately charting a course toward a conviction and death sentence, abruptly halting the trial after only one day. Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, Hasan's lead court-appointed standby attorney, said he is willing to step in and be Hasan's defense lawyer. But he asked that his responsibilities as co-counsel be minimized if Hasan, who is representing himself at trial, continues to work toward being executed. Credit: AP

Military prosecutors opened the trial by saying they would show that Hasan felt he had a "jihad duty," referring to a Muslim term for a religious war or struggle. After calling almost 80 witnesses during the last two weeks, prosecutors said Friday that they would begin tackling the question this week.

Prosecutors indicated that they had between 15 and 25 witnesses left, though it wasn't immediately clear how Monday's ruling would shorten prosecutors' case. Either way, Hasan was expected to get his chance to defend himself as early as Tuesday.

But the Army psychiatrist - who is acting as his own attorney - has put up little in a way of a defense so far and remained largely silent during the first two weeks of his trial.

He signaled before trial that he had just two witnesses. And during a barely one-minute opening statement, he told jurors that evidence "will clearly show that I am the shooter," but he said it wouldn't tell the whole story.

Hasan faces numerous charges of murder and attempted premeditated murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

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