Fort Hood Trial: Shooter Nidal Hasan to Represent Himself, Cross-Examine His Own Victims

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder in the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood in 2009, had his request to dismiss his legal counsel approved by Judge Col. Tara A. Osborn Monday so that he may represent himself at court martial July 1. The move makes little sense for his defense, and may indicate that Hasan plans on using the courtroom as a platform to make a spectacle rather than to prove his innocence.

Accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 others at For Hood in November 2009, Hasan faces the death penalty in a case that has long been delayed by pre-trial motions often won by his defense team. Lt. Col. Kris R. Poppe, the attorney removed from the case, had been representing Hasan for three years and successfully dismissed a judge for alleged bias and managed to reverse a ruling that would have required Hasan to shave his beard.

It is unclear why Hasan has decided to release his court-appointed counsel. He had already released a civilian lawyer in July 2011, John P. Galligan, who said he believed that Hasan could represent himself. "I think it's more important that his constitutional right to represent himself be honored than to force a defense team to represent him against his wishes," he said. "I think the judge will be duty-bound to honor the request."

Before the judge approved the request, Hasan had to undergo both psychological and physical evaluations the judge approved. Judge Osborn wanted to know that Major Hasan, who was shot during the attack and is paralyzed below the chest, would be able to sit for long period of time at trial.

Given that Hasan would be better represented by professional attorneys, some fear that this move means the major has given up and hopes only to use the trial as a platform promote his radical Islamic beliefs.

"One possibility is that he wants to use this trial as a platform, and he wants to make a spectacle of it," said Geoffrey S. Corn, a former Army prosecutor. "Let's remember, this is a guy who has manifested his hatred for the institution that is trying him and defending him, the Army. I personally think that's been the motive for the beard all along. It's his one way to manifest his personal opposition to being in the Army. Maybe this is just part of that mentality."

As a result of this ruling Hasan will be involved in the selection of jurors beginning Wednesday, and come trial, will be able to cross-examine witnesses, including some of his victims if they are called to testify.

Despite the risk of Major Hasan making a show of the proceedings, there is hope that with the trial finally underway four years after the shootings, the trial will conclude swiftly so that the jury may decide on whether or not Hasan is guilty and will be executed.

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Maxime Fischer-Zernin

Studying Political Science at Duke University (T. '15). His interests lie primarily in American national security and foreign policy. He is currently an Editor-at-Large for the Duke Political Review, and is a contributor for PolicyMic.com.

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