Monday, June 3, 2013

Judge rules Hasan to defend himself at trial

BULLETIN: Major Hasan requested an additional 3-month continuance in his trial to develop a new defense strategy. The judge scheduled another pre-trial hearing on Tuesday at 9 a.m. to hear the motion...

Ft. Hood - Major Abu Nidal Malik Hasan will represent himself, the judge ruled today.

The former Army psychiatrist is accused of 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. He is paralyzed from the chest down following his November, 2009 rampage at the Soldier Readiness Center.

Col. Tara Osborn ordered a physical examination to determine if the Major is able to withstand the rigors of directing his defense. 

According to an Army doctor from Ft. Sam Houston, Maj. Prasad Lakshminarasimhiah whose Hindu name is so long and difficult to pronounce he advised her to just call him “Doctor L” for short, the defendant is capable of sitting upright in his wheelchair for periods of up to 12 hours, as long as he is allowed to relieve the pressure on his buttocks and to stretch every 2 to 4 hours.

The doctor testified that the Major’s prognosis for recovery is “way poor,” and that he has almost no use of his left hand due to nerve damage, and some impairment in his right hand.

“One of the main things a lawyer has to do is write,” said the judge. “One of the ways this court operates - or any court, for that matter - is to submit documents,” the judge said. “Knowing this, how will you do this?”

The Major replied that he will do “The best I can.”

She found no reason he is not mentally capable of the task at hand.

“I think it is unwise for you to represent yourself,” the judge said, as she granted his motion to waive counsel.

The Major followed her recommendation that he allow his defense team to sit at the table during the trial, standing  by to answer questions on procedure and law, with the exception of Col. Martin.”

The Major gave no reason as to his objection, saying only, “I prefer for Col. Martin not to be on the team at all.”

He told the judge he is under no pressure or threat to waive his rights to legal counsel, and that if he is disqualified due to misconduct or incompetence, he will be represented by the Army officers who have been representing him.

Col. Osborn pointed to a thick red manual on the counsel table. She asked Maj. Hasan if he is aware that all the military rules of criminal evidence, the rules of courts martial, criminal procedure, and appeals are contained between its covers.

He said yes. She asked if he has had any legal training in all his years of education. He said no.

In finding his motion to be “knowing and intelligent,” she cautioned the Major that if improper evidence is entered into the record without his objection, he will be responsible for the effort to appeal the error.

“I can only accept the motion for waiver of legal counsel if I find you are competent and recognize the disadvantages.”

She cited a 1975 Supreme Court case in which the high court held that all defendants have the legal right to conduct their own defense if they are mentally and physically competent to do so, and recognize the risks associated with this.

Col. Osborn asked Major Hasan if he knew that the lead prosecutor has more than 20 years of experience with capital cases and a long record of convictions of those so accused.

“I’m going to do the best I can do,” he assured her.

She asked him to look at the charging instrument from his case file.

“How many counts are you charged with?” she asked.  He took his time and answered, “Thirteen counts of premeditated murder.”

She asked what else is he charged with.

In that interchange, he was silent for a long time before he replied, “Thirty-two counts of premeditated attempted murder.”

The judge asked what does a capital case mean.

“The death penalty.”

“These are lawyers who specialize in these types of cases,” she said, “and you want to waive your right to be represented by them?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

In closing, Col. Osborn said, “The same rules that apply to your lawyers apply to you.”

She was silent for a moment, then said, “Do you understand, Major Hasan, that you would be better off with a trial lawyer?"
“I understand the Court considers ineffectivity of counsel.”
he replied.

Jury selection will begin on June 5 with a trial date of July 1.

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