Hasan likely can keep beard during trial
Fight over military grooming violation has delayed Fort Hood shooting suspect’s trial.
The Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly Fort Hood shooting rampage likely will be allowed to keep his beard during his military trial after a new judge indicates she won’t force him to shave.
FORT HOOD — The saga surrounding the accused Fort Hood shooter’s beard, which has caused four months of courtroom delays and the removal of the military judge assigned to the capital murder case, might be nearing an end.
In a signal that Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan might be allowed to keep his beard during the upcoming courtmartial, newly-appointed military judge Col. Tara Osborn on Tuesday asked defense attorneys to draw up instructions to potential jurors regarding the beard, which violates Army grooming regulations. Such instructions would likely ask jurors not to hold Hasan’s appearance against him in determining a verdict.
Directly addressing Hasan during a scheduling hearing at the Army post, Osborn said: “I’m not going to hold (the beard) against you, but people on the ( jury) panel may. Do you understand?”
Hasan, whose beard is now several inches thick, replied that he did.
Osborn still has not ruled on a defense motion to allow Hasan to wear the beard on grounds that his facial hair is protected by religious
freedom laws, but her exchange indicated she may grant it, said military law expert Geoffrey Corn, a professor at South Texas College of Law who has been closely following the case.
“It certainly suggests that she is leaning toward a different interpretation of (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) than (former judge Col. Gregory) Gross,” Corn said. “I think she understands intuitively that if this beard issue is not resolved it could inject another period of delay into this case.”
Hasan, who faces the death penalty on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, began growing a beard before the courtmartial was scheduled to begin in August.
Gross held Hasan in contempt of court numerous times and ordered him forcibly shaved, which defense attorneys appealed, before the judge was removed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Services, which ruled that “it could reasonably appear to an objective observer that the military judge had allowed the proceedings to become a duel of wills between himself and (Hasan).”
During Tuesday’s hearing, defense attorneys also gave Osborn a list of defense motions that Gross had denied or that were pending before him in hopes that Osborn will reverse Gross’ rulings or allow defense attorneys to litigate them again.
Among them was a defense motion to move the court-martial from Fort Hood, as well as requests for a media analysis expert, a victim outreach specialist and access to confidential emails and investigation reports.
Defense attorneys also said they were seeking to renew their motion to allow Hasan to plead