Standby attorneys assigned to assist accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan have asked off the case, because they believe that Hasan is deliberately seeking the death penalty in his own trial for the attempted murder of dozens of American soldiers in 2009. Faced with 13 charges of premeditated murder, Hasan is representing himself, and blatantly admitted in his opening statement that "the evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter." But because of a military rule that says soldiers cannot plead guilty to capital offenses, the judge has ruled that Hasan may not officially plead guilty to premeditated murder, unpremeditated murder, or unpremeditated attempted murder. So Hasan has insisted on defending himself and is not off to a good start.
As such, Hasan's standby defense lawyers made a motion to step aside from defending the alleged shooter for the rest of the trial. "Working in concert with the prosecution to achieve the death sentence is something we can't do," Lt. Col. Kris Poppe said. "[It is] clear his goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty and is working toward a death penalty," he added.
Hasan denied that he is doing that, though, and called his lawyers' statements "a twist of the facts."
The former Army psychologist had planned to argue that he was acting in "defense of others," and that his acts defended Taliban members in other countries from attacks by U.S. soldiers. But that line of argument was denied by the judge. Since then, he only meekly cross-examined the prosecutors' key witnesses. In addition, Hasan submitted the gun that was used in the shooting and told the judge, "Your honor, I’d like to submit for the record that this is my weapon.” Legal analysts have been unable to pinpoint what exactly his line of defense is, if he has one at all.
Meanwhile, Hasan has by now collected almost $300,000 in regular salary since the shooting, as the army cannot suspend those payments until he is proven guilty. The way things are going though, those payments may not last past the trial.
Drawing by AP/Brigitte Woosley