Judge: Accused Fort Hood Shooter Can Continue Representing Himself
Story Updated at 10:15 a.m.
FORT HOOD (CBS 11 NEWS) – A military judge has ruled that attorneys assisting Army Maj. Nidal Hasan must continue as standby counsel.
Judge Col. Tara Osborn ruled, “Major Hasan determines his trial strategy, not standby counsel. This is nothing more than a disagreement.”
Hasan has been acting as his own attorney and, on the first day of the court martial, confessed to the 2009 shooting rampage that left 13 soldiers dead and wounded 31 others.
On Wednesday, Hasan’s former defense attorneys filed a motion asking that their role be expanded. The lawyers said they were concerned that Hassan was hoping for and trying to ensure that he received the death penalty. No American soldier has been executed since 1961.
The motion led Judge Osborn to halt the court martial that was only in its second day. Acting as legal counsel, Hasan objected to the motion and said that he disagreed with the attorney’s assessment.
Prosecutors had argued that the defense counsel’s request to withdraw because they don’t like Hasan’s trial strategy was baseless. “So far nothing he has done would be repugnant or surprising to anyone that has followed this case,” said one prosecutor. “I’m really perplexed how it’s caused such a moral dilemma.”
The standby defense attorneys for Hasan are not happy with the judge’s Thursday decision ordering them to remain by the defendant’s side.
Col. Kris Poppe raised his voice to the judge after she denied his motion to be released from the case or be given more control. “As standby counsel, we believe your order is forcing us to violate our rules of professional conduct over the defense strategy,” said Poppe. He went on to say that assisting Hasan would be “morally repugnant” because he and other defense counsel believe the Army major has a death wish.
The judge asked the attorneys if they had any professional conduct standards as evidence of an ethical dilemma. Poppe replied in a loud tone, “You have received an answer, you’re not willing to accept our answer.”
When defense attorneys asked Judge Osborn to delay the court martial until they could appeal her decision she told them, “I’m going to make it easy for you. I’m going to order you to perform the duties of standby counsel.”
Testimony is set to resume following the judge’s announcement.
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