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Nidal Hasan's attorneys still trying to leave case

Nidal Hasan's attorneys still trying to leave case
MGN Online
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Friday, August 9, 2013 - 2:45pm

FORT HOOD, Texas (CNN) -- Maj. Nidal Hasan's three standby attorneys made clear Friday they're still trying to leave the case, despite a military judge's earlier ruling keeping them on the job.

As the admitted Fort Hood gunman's trial reconvened Friday morning, two of the attorneys asked to be excused so they could work on asking a higher court to overrule Judge Col. Tara Osborn's decision from Thursday.

Osborn accepted Friday's request, allowing Maj. Christopher Martin and Maj. Joseph Marcee to leave while the third attorney, Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, remained with Hasan, who is being tried on charges that he shot and killed 13 people and wounded 32 in the November 2009 rampage at the Army installation near Killeen, Texas.

The standby attorneys had asked on Wednesday to drop out of the case, saying they believed Hasan -- who is representing himself but has the three attorneys as backup -- was trying to help the prosecution achieve a death sentence.

But Osborn ruled Thursday that they must continue, saying it was "nothing more than their disagreement with Major Hasan's strategy in conducting his defense."

With Martin and Marcee away Friday, prosecutors continued a brisk march through the witness list, planning to call 17 more people for testimony -- among them, a number of wounded survivors of the massacre.

By the end of Friday, prosecutors will have called as many as 48 of their 80 witnesses in three days -- a fast pace enabled in part by because Hasan declined to cross-examine anyone in the first two days.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who was paralyzed by a police bullet during the rampage, admitted at the start of the trial Tuesday that he was the shooter at the Fort Hood medical building where soldiers were being prepared for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty. In a military capital trial, a guilty plea is not an option, so Hasan's official plea is that he is not guilty of the charges. But on Tuesday he used his opening statement to declare, "I am the shooter."

The prosecution called several victims to the stand on Thursday. One after another, the survivors told similar stories of horror and heroism from personal vantage points.

Sgt. Alan Carroll testified that he was sitting and talking with a friend, awaiting his turn with the doctors at the medical building, when the shooting began.

"We heard the shouts of 'Allahu Akbar,' and I looked over," Carroll said. "I didn't exactly know what was going on, and then I realized it was a lot louder than a pop gun should be. I then felt a sharp pain in my shoulder."

He had been shot, but didn't realize it.

"I had my hand over my left shoulder and I was sitting there trying to figure out what was going on," Carroll testified. "I turned around and there was a man behind me and he was laughing ... and I figured it was a training exercise ... but it got harder and harder to move my shoulder."

Carroll said he was shot four more times before he managed to escape.

Sgt. Michael Davis testified that he was waiting to receive an injection for his readiness exam when the shooting began.

"I still thought it was a drill, but ... I heard young lady screaming, 'My baby! My baby! My baby!"

Davis said he took cover under a desk and awaited an opportunity to escape. A few moments later, he took a chance.

"Someone said, 'Go! Go! Go! He's reloading,'" Davis testified. "We started to move. As soon as I stood up, I got hit in the back and hit the ground pretty hard -- face first."

Wounded, Davis played dead until he heard the sound of gunfire transition to the outside. He said he stood up and made his escape through what had become a killing field.

He described the scene for the court: "There was a lot of bodies on the ground. The chairs were overturned. Lot of blood on the floor -- smelled like gunpowder, feces, blood. ... It was pretty bad."

He said he later learned that the woman screaming "My baby!" was Pvt. Francheska Velez. She had become pregnant while serving in Afghanistan and had recently returned to the United States.

She and her unborn child were shot and killed that day.

A U.S.-born citizen of Palestinian descent, Hasan had been scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan before the killings. Prosecutors hope to show that the devout Muslim had undergone a "progressive radicalization," giving presentations in defense of suicide bombings and about soldiers conflicted between military service and their religion when such conflicts result in crime.

Hasan did not want to deploy to fight against other Muslims and believed "that he had a jihad duty to kill as many soldiers as possible," Col. Michael Mulligan, the lead prosecutor in the case, said earlier in the trial.

Investigations that followed the Fort Hood killings found he had been communicating via e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American radical cleric killed by a U.S. drone attack in 2011.

The case was first set to begin in March 2012, but was delayed repeatedly, notably over a previous judge's unsuccessful demand that the beard Hasan has grown while in custody be forcibly shaved.

 

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