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2013-05-30

Hasan decides to represent himself

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

As expected, there's been a snag in the United States vs. Maj. Nidal M. Hasan court martial proceedings, slated to begin momentarily at Fort Hood, near Killeen. However, possibly no one could have anticipated this particular wrench tossed in the works.

On Wednesday, May 22, trial judge United States Army Col. Tara Osborn announced that jury selection would begin Wednesday, June 5, rather than on Thursday, May 30, as originally scheduled. As the opening of his trial draws near, Hasan has decided to waive his right to counsel and proceed pro se.

Pro se legal representation means advocating on one's own behalf in court proceedings, rather than being represented by a lawyer. The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to representation by counsel.

According to the website www.law.cornell.edu/wex/pro_se, in the 1975 case Faretta vs. California, the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment implies that a defendant in a state criminal trial has a constitutional right to proceed without counsel when he voluntarily and intelligently elects to do so.

Hasan, a former US Army psychiatrist, stands accused of committing 13 counts of felony premeditated murder and 32 counts of felony attempted premeditated murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Interestingly, defendants in political trials, such as this one, tend to participate in pro se proceedings more than defendants in non-political cases. This offers them more chances to depart from courtroom norms and use the trial as a platform for their political and moral issues.

Although Hasan had apparently been in protracted email contact with Islamic extremists and reportedly shouted "Allah akbar" after the 10-minute shooting spree, the government has not characterized the mass shooting as a terrorist attack. The rampage has instead been unofficially described as "workplace violence."

Osborn discussed Hasan's request to represent himself pro se during a previously scheduled hearing on at Fort Hood on Wednesday, May 29.