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2012-02-23

Hasan's trial date re-set at Fort Hood

Special to the Courier

Col. Gregory Gross, the judge for the court martial of Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, has re-set trial date to June 12. Although Hasan's trial was previously scheduled to begin on Monday, March 5, defense attorneys requested the delay to give them more preparation time.

Gross agreed that one of the defense experts, a specialist in mitigation evidence, needs more time to complete his review of Hasan's background. The judge also agreed that the defense team needs additional time to sift through the volumes of documents related to the case.

During the pre-trial hearing, Gross considered additional motions and requests from both the defense and prosecution teams. He also ruled on motions presented by defense attorneys last October, when they requested expert assistance on the effect of pre-trial publicity and for help in selecting jury panel members.

Grosse denied the defense's request for a pre-trial publicity expert, but granted them the panel selection expert. This expert will assist defense attorneys question jury panel members prior to the court-martial to determine which members should be excused from sitting on the panel.

The defense also filed a motion to compel the prosecution to provide them with notes from meetings and conversations between the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high-ranking officials in the aftermath of the shooting on Fort Hood on November 5, 2009.

Hasan stands accused of killing 13 people and wounded 29 others on that date. The incident remains the worst shooting that has ever occurred on an American military installation.

However, Hasan is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Defense attorneys requested the notes pertaining to the high-ranking government officials to determine if any matters that were discussed might have unlawfully influenced the independent discretion of Hasan's chain of command to prosecute him.

The prosecution opposed the motion, saying that Army officers who have taken action in this prosecution were under no influence from higher officials to do so. Gross reserved ruling on this request until a later date.

Another motion considered was the prosecution team's request that investigative reports, prepared by the US Department of Defense regarding Hasan's military career, be protected from further dissemination by his defense attorneys.

After opposing the protective order, defense attorneys asked Gross to give them time to respond to the prosecution's motion. Once Gross receives the response, he will hear arguments from both sides before ruling on the prosecution's motion.

The judge also commented on a matter discussed during a November hearing.

Defense attorneys had requested to talk privately with the Commanding General of Fort Hood and the Staff Judge Advocate, who gives legal advice to the Commanding General, to inquire into their qualifications to proceed with this case as a capital murder trial.

The prosecution asserted that such private access is unnecessary, and, again, asked Gross for more time to prepare a response to the defense request. After granting prosecutors their request, Gross said he would defer ruling on the matter until he considers the prosecution's response.

The judge will prepare a docketing order based on the new trial date, and he may allow both sides to conduct weekly hearings or conferences with him as the trial date approaches. Gross will allow both sides to submit questions to the pool of potential panel members before they are selected for this trial.