Fort Hood Judge Bars Most Motive Evidence
FORT HOOD (AP) – The judge overseeing the Fort Hood shooting trial blocked prosecutors on Monday from using several witnesses and most evidence they had sought to explain the alleged motive behind the 2009 attack.
Prosecutors had asked the military judge to approve evidence and several witnesses to explain the mindset of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 others at the Texas military base in November 2009. But the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, blocked nearly all of it.
Osborn told prosecutors that they couldn’t reference Hasan Akbar, a Muslim soldier sentenced to death for attacking fellow soldiers in Kuwait during the 2003 Iraq invasion. Prosecutors wanted to suggest a copycat motive was behind the shooting rampage at Fort Hood.
The judge said Akbar wasn’t on trial and introducing such material would “only open the door to a mini trial.” She said it would result in a “confusion of issues, unfair prejudice, waste of time and undo delay.”
Prosecutors also were barred from introducing three emails. They hadn’t disclosed details about which emails, but the FBI has said Hasan sent numerous emails starting in December 2008 to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S.-born Islamic cleric killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
Osborn also didn’t released details about the emails Monday, but she said they would have to be redacted to a point that would make them irrelevant.
The judge also told prosecutors that they couldn’t cite Hasan’s interest years ago in conscientious objector status and his past academic presentations. Osborn said such evidence was too old and irrelevant.
However, the judge will allow evidence about Internet searches on Hasan’s computer around the time of the attack and websites that Hasan had listed as “favorites.” She said that information was more timely.
When prosecutors asked the judge Friday to approve the evidence and witnesses, they indicated that they had between 15 and 25 witnesses left. It wasn’t immediately clear Monday whether all of those witnesses would still be able to testify.
That means Hasan could get his chance to defend himself as early as Tuesday. He signaled before trial that he had just two witnesses.
Hasan — who is acting as his own attorney — has put up little defense so far and has remained largely silent during the trial that began two weeks ago. He faces numerous charges of murder and attempted premeditated murder.
If convicted, he could face the death penalty. While prosecutors clearly have an advantage in how much evidence is on their side, the 13-officer jury must be unanimous in convicting Hasan of premeditated murder and for approving a death sentence.
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