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No further trial delay for Ft. Hood shooting suspect, judge rules

June 29, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • This undated photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department in Texas shows Nidal Hasan.
This undated photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department… (Bell County Sheriff's Department…)

A military judge in Texas on Friday ruled against delaying the trial of Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan, who remained banned from the courtroom after he refused to shave his beard.

The military judge, Col. Gregory Gross, decided to allow Maj. Hasan's trial to proceed as scheduled Aug. 20 over the objections of Hasan's attorneys, according to a statement released by Ft. Hood officials. Hasan's attorneys had asked Gross to delay the trial until December so they would have time to prepare. The court-martial has already been postponed -- from March to June and then August -- at the request of Hasan's attorneys.

The Army psychiatrist faces the death penalty if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack on the U.S. Army base about 80 miles northwest of Austin.

Gross had advised Hasan at previous hearings that if he was unwilling to shave in accordance with military grooming standards, he would not be allowed to appear in court. On Friday, the judge said that Army authorities had rejected Hasan's request for a religious exemption as a Muslim to the grooming standards. An appeals court also denied a defense request to overturn the judge's decision to bar Hasan from the courtroom unless he shaves.

Hasan watched Friday's hearing from a closed-circuit television in a nearby room, as he did last week's hearing.

"I could have him held down and have someone shave him, but I'm not prepared to do that at this time," Gross said, according to the Associated Press.

Gross also denied a request by Hasan's attorneys that he recuse himself, disputing allegations that he was biased against Hasan.

Lead defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris Poppe had said the judge asked defense attorneys to clean up a court restroom after finding a medical waste bag, adult diaper and what appeared to be feces on the floor after a hearing earlier this month, according to the Associated Press.

The comment appeared to be a reference to Hasan, who wears adult diapers after he was shot by police the day of the rampage and became paralyzed. But the mess in the restroom that day was mud from a guard's boots, Poppe told the court.

Further, Poppe noted that the judge had allowed Hasan to wear a knit cap in court until he showed up with a beard June 8. The judge then ordered the cap removed because defense attorneys didn't have a doctor's note specifying why Hasan needed it, Poppe said.

Gross refuted the allegations, saying he was looking out for the cleanliness of the court and that he had attempted to make accommodations for Hasan's defense team, the AP reported.

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Join Molly on Google+ and Twitter @mollyhf. Email: molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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