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Fort Hood shooting hearing could be delayed until after anniversary

Fort Hood shooting took place on November 5, 2009 on the Texas military base. Major Nidal Hasan is charged with murder and attempted murder at Fort Hood.

By ANGELA K. BROWNAssociated Press, MICHAEL GRACZYKAssociated Press / October 13, 2010

In this courtroom sketch, defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, right, speaks to Investigating Officer Col. James L. Pohl, center, while Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, left, listens during Hasan's Article 32 hearing inside the U.S. Magistrate court Tuesday, Oct. 12, in Fort Hood, Texas.

Pat Lopez/AP Photo

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Fort Hood, Texas

Testimony to determine if an Army psychiatrist accused in last year's deadly Fort Hood shootings should go to trial could be delayed until after the anniversary of the attack if an investigating officer agrees to a request from defense attorneys.

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Maj. Nidal Hasan, 40, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 attack, the worst mass shooting at an American military base. His Article 32 hearing was halted almost as soon as it started Tuesday when Hasan's attorneys sought extra time "to process paperwork," according to Col. James L. Pohl, a military judge presiding over the hearing as its investigating officer.

Defense attorneys are seeking to delay the hearing until Nov. 8. The hearing, a proceeding unique to military law, will determine if there's enough evidence to move forward to a trial.

Pohl said he would hear arguments on the defense request Wednesday.

Prosecutors are expected to call survivors of the attack among witnesses in a hearing scheduled to last at least three weeks. They have not said whether they will seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.

Hasan, who is paralyzed from the chest down, appeared in court in a wheelchair Tuesday. He wore a combat uniform and a with wool cap pulled over his ears. He glanced around the room but mostly looked at Pohl or his attorneys.

Security was exceptionally tight at the Fort Hood courthouse, where soldiers at newly installed barriers restricted traffic. Patrol cars cruised the area. Bomb-sniffing dogs scrutinized vehicles. A small group of reporters allowed into the courtroom went through metal detectors, while photographers outside were blocked from any view of Hasan arriving.

At an auxiliary courtroom where other media monitored proceedings on a closed-circuit TV feed, cell phones were collected and access to the Internet was barred.

One of Hasan's lawyers, Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, didn't go into details about the request for a delay, saying only in response to a question from Pohl that the reasons were not constitutional in nature but of an unspecified "broader issue."

Lead prosecutor Col. Michael Mulligan opposed a postponement, saying Hasan's legal team already has had months to prepare.

Defense lawyers declined to elaborate following Tuesday's session, which totaled about 15 minutes in court.

"Nothing can be said," John Galligan, Hasan's lead attorney, said. "We have work to do."

A Fort Hood spokesman, Thomas Rheinlander, offered reporters a 72-word synopsis of the short-lived proceeding but took no questions.

Witnesses say Hasan used two personal pistols, one a semiautomatic, to take some 100 shots at about 300 people Nov. 5 at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where soldiers were making final preparations to deploy. Fort Hood police officers shot at him during the attack, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

He's been in custody since, hospitalized first in San Antonio, then moved to jail in Bell County, which houses military suspects for nearby Fort Hood. The military justice system does not offer bail.