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Judge sets trial date for Nidal Malik Hasan in Ft. Hood rampage

February 28, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Nidal Malik Hasan in 2003.
Nidal Malik Hasan in 2003. (Associated Press )

HOUSTON — A military judge ruled Thursday that an Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 shooting at Ft. Hood in Texas will stand trial in three months.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 42, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder in connection with the rampage at the sprawling central Texas Army base, the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation.

After repeated delays, lawyers for both sides recently indicated that they were prepared to begin trial in April, but the judge decided to take more time before seating a jury.

The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, said Thursday that she planned to start seating a jury May 29, and that testimony would start July 1.

The government has nearly 300 witnesses, and testimony is expected to take months.

The trial was originally scheduled to start last summer but was delayed when Hasan, a Muslim, grew a beard and refused to shave for religious reasons, despite orders and fines imposed by the judge then handling the case, Col. Gregory Gross.

Gross eventually ordered Hasan to shave or be forcibly shaved, and Hasan’s attorneys appealed. In December, the top U.S. military appellate court ruled in their favor, removing Gross, who they said had failed to remain impartial.

Gross' order that Hasan shave before trial was set aside after the judge's removal. Osborn, appointed to replace Gross, has yet to rule on the issue, although she hinted at a December hearing that Hasan might be able to keep his beard.

If convicted, Hasan faces the death penalty or life without parole. Military commanders gave prosecutors the right to seek the death penalty shortly after Hasan was charged, although his attorneys have requested the death penalty be removed — so far, without success.

Osborn ruled Thursday that the military's capital sentencing procedures comply with all constitutional requirements and declined a defense request for special sentencing.

The judge didn't rule on defense requests that the trial be moved away from Ft. Hood and that jurors be selected from a military branch other than the Army.

The next hearing is scheduled for March 20, when Osborn plans to consider a defense request to bar testimony by a witness for the prosecution, terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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