Judge Rules Major Hasan May Represent Himself in Fort Hood Trial – Update: Will use “defense of others” argument
The alleged Fort Hood shooter will be representing himself in court, despite repeated warnings about the disadvantages of doing so from the military judge who issued the ruling today.
From the Associated Press:
The Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage will represent himself at his upcoming murder trial, meaning he will question the more than two dozen soldiers he’s accused of wounding, a military judge ruled Monday. […]
After questioning Hasan for about an hour, the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, ruled that Hasan was mentally competent to represent himself and understands “the disadvantage of self-representation.” She repeatedly urged him to reconsider his request, noting that the lead prosecutor has more than 20 years of experience and that Hasan will be held to the same standards as all attorneys regarding courtroom rules and military law.
“You’ve made that quite clear,” Hasan said after the judge asked if he understood that representing himself was not “a good idea.”
While Maj. Nidal Hasan wanted one of his attorneys kicked off the case, the judge said that all three will remain available to him only if he asks for help. Two will sit with him at the defense table. Hasan fired his civilian attorneys two years ago and has since been represented by military attorneys.
This decision now allows Hasan to question the very victims he stands accused of having wounded.
Hasan is charged on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, for which he faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
The judge spent an hour questioning Hasan about his perceived ability to represent himself, making sure that he fully understood the undertaking.
From the LA Times:
“How are you, with no formal legal training or education, going to know what to do when the other side has that level of education?” Osborn said.
“I’m going to do the best I can do,” Hasan replied, his voice calm.
Osborn also questioned how Hasan would be able to write and type enough to defend himself. He said he had a lot of experience typing and could compensate for his injured hand.
“You would be better off with a trained lawyer who would know the rules of court-martial, the rules of evidence, the rules of law,” she said, offering Hasan the option of seeking other lawyers. He declined.
At one point, the judge asked Hasan to list the charges against him, and he faltered, conferring with his lead military attorney before responding.
“If you are convicted, you could be sentenced to what, what is the maximum punishment in this case?” Osborn said.
“Death,” Hasan murmured.
The judge also warned Hasan that he would not be permitted to make statements instead of cross-examining witnesses or himself, threatening to revoke his pro se status if he did so.
Some may remember another famous defendant who represented himself in court. It didn’t turn out too well for him.
UPDATE 6/3 4:00pm EST: The AP reports now that Hasan has indicated he will use a “defense of others” argument in his defense when representing himself.
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