After three and a half years of delays on issues ranging from whether he can have a beard in the courtroom in violation of Army grooming policy to whether he can argue in court that he was defending ‘the Taliban in Afghanistan,’ Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan finally stands trial today for the 2009 Ft. Hood massacre that killed 13 people and wounded 32, 1200 WOAI news reports.
“Throughout this whole process, he has been treated as if he is the victim, and we have been treated like we really don’t matter,” Alonzo Lunsford, one of the 32 people wounded by Hasan, told 1200 WOAI news, stressing he is pleased that the trial is finally ready to begin.
A judge rejected a last attempt by Hasan to delay his trial, saying he cannot have any more delays to try to hire former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark as his defense lawyer. Col. Tara Osborn said Hasan can call Clark as a witness or can receive advice from his informally, but the trial will move forward with Hasan representing himself.
Geoffrey Corn, an expert on military law at South Texas College of Law, says there are some differences between the Uniform Code of Military Justice and civilian and federal courts when it comes to the size of the jury.
“In the UCMJ there is a minimum of 12 panelists for a capital case, but there is no maximum,” Corn told 1200 WOAI news.
“My guess is they will start with 20 or 25 members, and whatever is left over after the challenges will be the size of the jury. It can’t be smaller than 12, it probably won’t be twenty, it is probably going to be somewhere between 12 and 18.”
Corn says Hasan, acting as his own counsel, will have the right to question jurors, and the right to cross examine witness like Lunsford, who was shot six times by Hasan.
Lunsford says he’s not excited about that, but the retired Sergeant says he will show Hasan ‘who is the better man.’
“I am not going to show fear in the face of the enemy,” he said.
Jury selection is expected to last about a month. Osborn has indicated she wants opening arguments to begin August 6th.
The jury panel consists of officers brought in from Ft. Sill Oklahoma, and it will not include any officers who were at Ft. Hood on the day of the shooting.
Attorneys for the victims have accused the Obama Adminsitration of 'political correctness' by not labeled the attack as 'terrorism,' saying instead it was an example of 'workplace violence.'
Because of that, wounded men and women like Sgt. Lunsford have been unable to receive the level of care provided to Americans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have not been able to receive the Purple Heart medal, which is awarded to service personnel who suffer 'wounds in action in the face of the enemy.'
The Pentagon has indicated that it decided to classify the case as a murder rather than terrorism to speed the military legal process along. The UCMJ does not have a 'terrorism' charge, and the Pentagon says charing Hasan with terrorism would require prosecutors to craft a charge and could result in Hasan not being fully punished.
If convicted, he faces the possiblity of the death penalty, although nobody has been executed under the UCMJ since 1961.