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Halted Fort Hood suspect trial to restart

Judge to decide whether Nidal Hasan is trying to secure death penalty for himself after lawyers complain.

Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 07:22
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Nidal Hasan faces 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder [AP]

A US military judge could decide whether the soldier accused in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood is trying to guarantee himself a death sentence.

The trial of Major Nidal Hasan, who has admitted shooting dead 13 people at the Texas military post four years ago, is set to continue on Thursday after being halted a day earlier to consider a request by Hasan's standby defence team to reduce its role.

It becomes clear [Hasan's] goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty

- Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, lawyer appointed to represent Fort Hood suspect Nidal Hasan,

The lawyers made the request because they believe that he is trying to convince jurors to convict him.

"It becomes clear his goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty and is working toward a death penalty," his lead standby attorney, Lieutenant-Colonel Kris Poppe, told the judge on Wednesday.

After only one day of testimony, the lawyers said, they could not watch him fulfil a death wish.

That strategy, Poppe argued, "is repugnant to defence counsel and contrary to our professional obligations".

Hasan gave a brief opening statement during the trial's first day, Tuesday, that included claiming responsibility for the attack and announcing his commitment to jihad, or the Islamic holy war against the US.

He posed no questions to most witnesses and rarely spoke. On one of the few times he did talk, it was to get on the record that the alleged murder weapon was his, even though no one had asked.

Sometimes he took notes, but he mostly looked forward impassively.

Still, Hasan repeatedly objected on Wednesday to Poppe's assertions, telling the judge: "That's a twist of the facts."

Poppe told the judge he and the other standby lawyers want to take over the case.

If Hasan is allowed to continue on his own, they want their roles minimised so Hasan can't ask them for help with a strategy they oppose.

The exchange prompted the judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, to halt the long-delayed trial on Wednesday.

She must now decide what to do next, knowing that any decision will be scrutinised by a military justice system that has overturned most soldiers' death sentences in the last three decades.

Hasan faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated.

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