Day two in the trial of the accused Fort Hood shooter came to an unexpected halt Wednesday morning, after standby defense attorneys for Nidal Hasan requested to either be reinstated as official counsel or be removed from the case entirely. The attorneys filed a motion, explaining that Hasan’s strategy in court thus far has demonstrated that the defendant – who is representing himself – appears to arguing for his own death sentence.
From local newspaper Killeen Daily Herald:
Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, who was effectively fired by Hasan in May after the judge ruled the major could defend himself, said Hasan is working in concert with the prosecution to make sure the death penalty will be the ultimate punishment in the shooting case that claimed 13 lives in 2009 at Fort Hood.
“His goal is to remove impediments and obstacles to the death penalty,” Poppe said.
Poppe filed the motion on behalf of himself and the two other court-appointed attorneys still assisting Hasan.
“Should he decide he wants to fight the death penalty, then we are here and ready to defend him,” Poppe said.
Hasan objected, calling the attorney’s assessment, “a twist of the facts.”
In his opening statements Tuesday, Hasan declared, “The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter,” adding, “evidence from this trial will only show one side. I was on the wrong side but I switched sides,” according to Reuters.
A reporter with Killeen Daily Herald said the standby defense attorneys also submitted a FOX News article as evidence of Hasan’s desire to seek his own death sentence.
— Philip Jankowski (@KDHcrime) August 7, 2013
Indeed, in documents released to FOX News by Hasan, the accused Fort Hood shooter wrote about being on the wrong side, explaining his view that he is “Muslim first” and that he has to “help my Muslim brothers overseas,” and that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are “wars against Islam.”
In excerpts from a sanity board report also released to FOX News, evaluators described Hasan’s belief that democracy conflicts with Sharia law.
MAJ Hasan’s core religious conflict was “laws of man were superseding the laws of God…America loves democracy and it (democracy) conflicts with Islam’s Sharia law and it (America) is going to war to eradicate Sharia law…America tries to impose its will on others…Islam doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state.”
So far, the accused Fort Hood shooter has cross examined only two of the witnesses presented. One was a former supervisor, retired Lt. Col Ben Kirk Phillips; the other was Pat Sonti, both of whom testified on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Hasan had been rated on his performance appraisal, “Outstanding performance, must promote,” said supervisor Ben Phillips, adding that everyone got that rating.
“I checked off that as I do with every officer because if you check any other, you basically end that officer’s career,” Phillips said.
Pat Sonti testified that on the morning of the shooting he accompanied Hasan to prayers at a mosque. Hasan took over the microphone to lead the call to prayer at the mosque even though it was Sonti’s turn.
Hasan asked Sonti if there was a protocol for determining who leads prayer and Sonti said the Imam signals the chosen person. Hasan was not chosen but did it anyway, Sonti said.
One of those Hasan did not cross-examine was Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, who was shot seven times during the 2009 attack.
Among the witnesses he did not question Tuesday was Lunsford, one of more than 30 people wounded in the deadliest attack on a U.S. military installation.
Prosecutors asked Lunsford to show the 13 jurors where Hasan had shot him. The tall, imposing retired soldier, who told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he still has nightmares about the attack, slowly got to his feet and pointed to each spot on his body where Hasan’s bullets hit him.
Lunsford talked about playing dead, hoping that Hasan wouldn’t attack him again, before deciding to flee when he realized he was perspiring.
Twelve witnesses were expected to testify Wednesday, according to USA Today, but testimony was put on hold as the court was abruptly recessed in light of the day’s unexpected development.
Court is scheduled to resume Thursday at 9am local time, where the judge is expected to rule on the motion.