Fort Hood hearing won’t include defense evidence
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The defense does not plan to present any evidence when a military hearing resumes next week for the Army psychiatrist charged in last year’s deadly Fort Hood shootings, the lead defense attorney said Tuesday.
John Galligan said the government had offered “no surprises” in presenting its case against Maj. Nidal Hasan during two weeks of testimony in October.
The Article 32 hearing, held to determine whether charges should move forward in military court, was delayed at defense attorneys’ request, in part so it would not be going on during the anniversary of the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage.
“It’s not designed to be a trial,” Galligan told The Associated Press from his Fort Hood-area office, about 130 miles south of Fort Worth.
Galligan, who had unsuccessfully sought to have the hearing closed to the public, called it a “media show by the government.”
The hearing is expected to resume briefly Monday before ending. Galligan said he would repeat his requests for reports on government investigations and other documents related to Hasan, who was paralyzed after being shot by police that day and remains jailed.
After receiving recommendations from the investigating officer in the case and a brigade commander, Fort Hood’s commanding general will decide whether Hasan should be court-martialed in the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military base.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Army officials have not said whether they would seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.
Military law experts say it’s not unusual for the defense to decide against presenting evidence during Article 32 hearings.
“All the government has to show is that there is sufficient evidence to take the case to trial. The accused doesn’t have to prove anything,” said Richard Rosen, professor and director of Texas Tech University’s Center for Military Law and Policy. He is not involved in the Hasan case.
Dozens of witnesses testified that a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great!” — and opened fire in a crowded medical building where deploying soldiers get vaccines and other tests. He fired rapidly, pausing only to reload, even shooting at soldiers hiding under desks and those fleeing the building, according to witnesses.
When it was over, investigators found 146 shell casings on the floor, another 68 outside the building and 177 unused rounds in the gunman’s pockets after he was shot by Fort Hood police officers.
Before the rampage, Hasan bought a laser-equipped semiautomatic handgun and repeatedly visited a firing range, where honed his skills by shooting at the heads on silhouette targets, other witnesses said.
Rosen said the case was nearly certain to go to trial.
“I think the evidence is overwhelming,” he said.
Also Tuesday, the Defense Department released final reports for each military branch on policy changes to prevent another internal attack. The Army said it has implemented new training programs to increase information sharing with other agencies, and an online version of the neighborhood watch program for soldiers and their families, among dozens of other changes.
Some recommendations in several government investigations the past year came after revelations that warning signs had been missed or ignored in Hasan’s military records. And before the shootings, a local FBI-run terrorism task force failed to share information about Hasan’s e-mail contacts with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric who encouraged Muslims to kill U.S. troops.
“While we know we can never eliminate every potential threat, we’ve learned from the events at Fort Hood,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey said in a statement. “We have made significant progress ... but our work is not done.”