FORT HOOD, Texas —A military judge resumed the Fort Hood shooting trial today despite demands from the suspect’s standby attorneys that they be removed from the case.
The military defense lawyers ordered to help Maj. Nidal Hasan represent himself during his murder trial had asked to take over the case Wednesday, saying they believed Hasan was trying to secure himself a death sentence.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, denied that request today, saying it was clear the lawyers simply disagreed with Hasan’s defense strategy. But the attorneys were adamant and said they would appeal to a higher court.
“We believe your order is causing us to violate our rules of professional conduct,” Lt. Col. Kris Poppe told the judge.
Osborn briefly recessed the trial, but the hearing later resumed and jurors were allowed in after the standby attorneys were told to continue in their current duties.
Poppe had told the judge that if Hasan were allowed to continue on his own, they wanted their roles minimized so Hasan couldn’t ask them for help with a strategy they oppose. They said they couldn’t watch Hasan fulfill a death wish.
“It becomes clear his goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty and is working toward a death penalty,” Poppe told the judge on Wednesday. That strategy, he argued, “is repugnant to defense counsel and contrary to our professional obligations.”
Hasan gave a brief opening statement during the trial’s first day Tuesday that included claiming responsibility for the attack that killed 13 people at the Texas military post. He posed no questions to most witnesses and rarely spoke. On one of the few times he did talk, it was to get on the record that the alleged murder weapon was his -- even though no one had asked.
Sometimes he took notes, but he mostly looked forward impassively.
The prosecutor, Col. Michael Mulligan, defended Hasan’s strategy, saying today that it would have been “absurd” for Hasan to contest the facts of what happened the day of the attack in November 2009.
Mulligan said Hasan appeared to be taking on a “tried and true” defense strategy of not contesting the facts but rather offering an alternative reason about why they occurred.
“I’m really perplexed as to how it’s caused such a moral dilemma,” Mulligan told the judge.