Fort Hood massacre suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan is expected to formally enter a plea on Thursday as preparations begin for his long delayed trial to begin later this summer, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Even though Hasan has previously indicated a desire to plead guilty to the November 2009 shooting that killed 13 soldiers and Army support personnel who had gathered in a Ft. Hood meeting room, and wounded 32 others, Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army prosecutor and professor of law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, says he will have no choice under military law.
"He will enter a not guilty plea," Addicott said. "I see no problem with this issue."
That would make this one of the few items in this closely watched case to go smoothly. Hasan's trial has been delayed three times and the judge earlier this month rejected a request for a fourth delay. Delays were needed when Hasan parted ways with his civilian lawyer in 2011, and the case was placed on hold for more than six months last year while a miltiary appeals court considered whether Hasan should be allowed to wear a beard in the courtroom in violation of Army grooming regulations. The court also removed the original trial judge, which prompted more delays.
Last month, Hasan won permission to represent himself, and attempted to try to justify the shooting on the grounds that he did it to 'protect the Taliban in Afghanistan.' Judge Tara Osborn rejected that claim, saying what is called a 'defense of others' argument can only be used if somebody presents an imminent threat, and she said nobody in that room at Ft. Hood was presenting any danger to anybody in Afghanistan.
Hasan faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted, although the military has not executed anybody since 1961. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a defendant is not allowed to plead guilty to a capital crime, and Judge Col. Tara Osborn has repeatedly refused Hasan's request to drop the death penalty.
A Ft. Hood spokesman says a 'laundry list' of motions, some left over from before Hasan decided to represent himself. They include whether controversial terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann can be allowed to testify on behalf of the prosecutrion, and more mundane questions, like whether selection of the panel of officers who will act as Hasan's jury can be stopped for a week due to a jury selection expert's prior commitment.
Osborn is also expected to decide what the panel of officers will be told about Hasan's full beard.
"The judge will simply tell them to ignore the matter, but of course they will keep it in the back of their minds," Addicott said.
Gary Solis, a law professor at Georgetown University and author of "The Law of Armed Conflict," agrees.
"I suspect that a beard is not going to favorably impress a military panel," Solis said. "They may be told to not consider it, but that would be similar to 'not considering' a defendant who was naked."