FORT HOOD, Texas – An Army psychiatrist charged in a deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood was barred from military court by the judge Tuesday because he still has a beard.
Maj. Nidal Hasan was told that he couldn’t attend any more hearings or the upcoming murder trial unless he shaves. The judge, Col. Gregory Gross, initially warned Hasan that he was violating Army policy at a hearing earlier this month.
The hearing on several other motions, including a possible trial delay, continued with Hasan watching on closed-circuit television from a nearby room.
Lead defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris Poppe has said Hasan grew the beard as a “deeply sincere” expression of his Islamic faith and because he has a premonition he will die soon.
Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack at the Texas post.
An American-born Muslim, Hasan has been clean-shaven in all other court appearances until earlier this month.
A prosecutor, Lt. Col. Steve Henricks, said Hasan never grew a beard during his military career and was only doing so now to prevent witnesses from identifying him at trial.
“We doubt that (religion) is the motive,” Henricks told the judge.
During a break in the hearing, TV monitors in the courtroom showed Hasan and one of his attorneys in another room, but the judge decided to turn them off when proceedings resumed because he said he didn’t want Hasan’s appearance to be a disruption.
“I’ll wait for him to shave if he wants to come back in here,” Gross told Hasan’s attorneys.
Poppe said he would appeal the judge’s ruling because with Hasan barred from the courtroom he has no way to communicate with his client.
Hasan’s trial already was postponed from March and then June after defense attorneys said they needed more time to prepare. The trial is currently scheduled for Aug. 20.
Witnesses have said that on the morning of Nov. 5, 2009, a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform opened fire after shouting “Allahu Akbar!” – or “God is great!” in Arabic – in a Fort Hood medical building where deploying and returning soldiers received vaccines and other tests. Several witnesses identified the gunman as Hasan, who was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan the following month.
Hasan, 41, is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police the day of the rampage. He remains jailed.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)