Hasan likely can keep beard dur­ing trial

Fight over mil­i­tary groom­ing vi­o­la­tion has de­layed Fort Hood shoot­ing sus­pect’s trial.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeremy Schwartz jschwartz@states­man.com

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

Nadal Hasan, charged in ’09 at­tack that killed 1 , has a beard sev­eral inches thick.

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