The dying words of Army Private First Class Francheska Velez, who screamed 'my baby, my baby!' as the 21 year old woman, six weeks pregnant with her first child, was being shot to death at Ft. Hood, will be allowed to be read to the jury in the upcoming murder trial of alleged gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan, a miltiary judge ruled today.
Col. Tara Osborn today considered several questions of what evidence will be allowed when Hasan stands trial starting in August for the November 2009 massacre that left 13 people, including Velez, dead.
Osborn allowed prosecutors to show the jury a video of the gruesome crime scene, if what was referred to as 'repetitive imagery' is removed. Hasan, who is acting as his own lawyer, did not object to the admission of the video.
She also ruled that Hasan and prosecutors will both be allowed to individually question the Army officers who will make up the jury pool, something that Geoffrey Corn, a former Army prosecutor who is now a professor at the South Texas College of Law, says will put Hasan at a disadvantage from the start.
"It is going to be such a mismatch in appearance between Hasan and the prosecutors," Corn said. "The next question is, what is Hasan going to do during that questioning."
Hasan will be assisted by a court appointed jury panel selection expert.
Osborn has ordered jury selection to begin July 9th. The questions which Hasan and the prosecutors want to ask prospective jurors must be submitted by tomorrow.
Hasan was expected to enter a plea at today's hearing, but that was pushed back to next week, something miltiary law expert Jeffrey Addicott, a former legal adviser to the Army Special Forces, says isn't surprising.
"He will enter a not guilty plea," Addicott said. "I see no problem with this issue."
Hasan, who faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted, had expressed a desire at one point to plead guilty if the death penalty were taken off the table. But Osborn refused that request and defendants are not allowed to plead guilty to capital cases under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, so Addicott says even if he tries to enter some other type of plea, a not guilty plea would be entered for him.
Observers say following numerous delays ranging from a debate over Hasan's beard to a ruling that Hasan cannot argue at his trial that he opened fire on the soldiers to protect the 'Taliban in Afghanistan,' Judge Osborn is committed to hold to her schedule, which calls for opening arguments to begin August 6th.