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FORT WORTH, TEXAS — The Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood attack wants to represent himself at his upcoming murder trial, which means he could question the nearly three dozen soldiers he’s accused of wounding in the shooting rampage.
Maj. Nidal Hasan’s request, announced Wednesday by Fort Hood officials, is to be considered at a pretrial hearing next week. The request prompted the military judge, Col. Tara Osborn, to delay jury selection to June 5, about a week after it was scheduled to start.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5, 2009, attack on the Texas Army post, about 125 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
Military law allows defendants to represent themselves, but the judge will ask Hasan’s attorneys to stay throughout the trial in case he asks for their help, according to court-martial guidelines. Two of Hasan’s three Army attorneys have represented him since shortly after his arrest.
Hasan’s attorneys and military prosecutors have said they are not allowed to comment about anything related to the case.
In 2011, Hasan cut ties with his previous lead attorney, John Galligan, a civilian who is a former military judge. Galligan declined to comment Wednesday on why he stopped representing Hasan and said he didn’t know why his former client suddenly wants to represent himself.
At a hearing earlier this month, Hasan told Osborn that he wanted to plead guilty. But Army rules prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea to charges that could result in a death sentence. Osborn also denied his request to plead guilty to lesser murder charges, citing legal issues that could have arisen because his death penalty trial still would have proceeded.
Witnesses have said that after lunch on Nov. 5, 2009, a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — “God is great!” in Arabic — 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 some soldiers as they hid under desks and fled the building, according to witnesses.