Why military judge has hands full with Nidal Hasan court-martial
With Maj. Nidal Hasan defending himself during his court-martial for the 2009 Fort Hood mass shootings, the judge will have a difficult proceeding to manage to prevent a jihad 'circus.' Some expect to see parallels to trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the missing 9/11 hijacker.
(Page 2 of 2)
Before allowing Hasan to defend himself, Osborn spent more than an hour Monday grilling him about his request, suggesting several times that he would be better off if his appointed military lawyer were to handle the courtroom. The judge retains the right to hand his defense back to the appointed military lawyer if Hasan proves unable to act as his own lawyer or unwilling to stick to the facts of the case.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Meanwhile, appeals cases are already being drafted, legal experts say, given Monday’s decision to allow Hasan to defend himself and the earlier fight about whether Hasan should be able to wear a beard or be forced to shave it, given that he still falls under the purview of Army regulations that forbid beards for officers.
Osborn is also poised to rule on whether to delay the court-martial to let Hasan have time to prepare. He requested a three-month delay, even though he had earlier told the court that he was ready to proceed immediately.
To be sure, many Americans may shudder at the prospect of giving Hasan a media spotlight in which to condemn American soldiers or even to foment jihad against the US – especially given recent urgings by Al Qaeda elements in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings for American Muslims to attack US targets on their own. Hasan himself is a Muslim American, was born in Virginia.
Despite military judges’ latitude to keep outbursts to a minimum, the system is not equipped to prevent “someone from using it as a platform,” Mr. Goelman says. It gives defendants “a certain amount of latitude to use the system for their own ends.”
Some Army lawyers concede that such scenarios may be hurtful, even dangerous. But they also suggest that limiting Hasan’s rights would undermine American values, which are the key push-back against extremists' rationale for jihad against the West.
“I think we sleep better at night because we allow these kinds of trials to happen,” says retired Maj. Gen. John Altenburg, a former Army lawyer and past Appointing Authority for Military Commissions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “We try to be dispassionate, and when you finally convict someone like that, assuming he’s convicted, nobody looks back and says, ‘Wow, we kind of ramrodded him.’ Nobody can say he didn’t have his day in court.”
During his trial, Moussaoui spewed threats and venom, and, in one court paper, characterized Judge Brinkema as having “acute symptoms of Islamophobia with complex of gender inferiority.” But he later said in a court filing he was surprised that an American jury would spare his life. "I now see that it is possible that I can receive a fair trial even with Americans as jurors," he conceded.
RECOMMENDED: Quiz: How much do you know about terrorism?