Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Court to revisit wrangle over standby counsel

Ft. Hood - Defense lawyers and a radical Islamic jihadist accused of murdering 13 unarmed soldiers and wounding an additional 32 remain at contretemps in what has turned into a show trial for the Muslim cause.

Defense lawyers for Maj. Abu Nidal Malik Hasan have been ordered, once again, to submit a written proffer of their objections to providing legal opinions as standby counsel to the former psychiatrist who is on trial for capital murder at this post.

The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, relieved the three attorneys originally appointed to represent Maj. Hasan when she granted his motion to represent himself. He followed her recommendation to retain them as standby counsel.

They have repeatedly argued that their situation is ethically murky as to what their licensing authorities allow them to do other than to provide legal research, something a paralegal can do.

They have asked that the judge either rescind her order to allow Maj. Hasan to defend himself, or release them from their duties as defense counsel in this tedious proceeding in which an inexperienced practitioner of military criminal law seems to be testing the limits of the Court’s patience on a continual basis, leading to lengthy delays.

The judge has ordered the defense attorneys to submit their ethical findings in writing, but for the past week, they have not complied with her order. The situation has produced sparks and raised voices, not once, but twice. Col. Poppe, the lead counsel, has told the judge several times that the Major is insisting that they should give him their legal opnion.

Maj. Hasan tried to enter a motion claiming as his legal defense a “defense of others” when he opened fire at the Soldier Readiness Center on Nov. 5, 2009. Rules of Courts Martial allow such a defense if the life of another person is in imminent danger.

Maj. Hasan claimed he acted in defense of the lives of the Mullah Omar and other leaders of the Taliban in the Emirate of Afghanistan when he launched his attack on soldiers being readied to ship out overseas.

The judge overruled his motion last Friday, holding that there is “no legal basis” for defending the life of another person who is situated on another continent, overseas, by attacking soldiers who might be deployed to the same combat zone.

Asked if he has found the standby counsel’s service satisfactory, he told the judge, “No, ma’am.”

The wrangle will likely continue when court convenes today to hear further matters previously litigated in the Article 39-A pre-trial proceedings, which are similar to pre-trial hearings in civilian criminal courts.

- The Legendary

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