Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
FORT HOOD, Texas - The Army psychiatrist on trial for the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage can continue to represent himself, a military judge ruled Thursday.
A rift between Maj. Nidal Hasan and his "standby" lawyers emerged Wednesday when the defense team filed a motion asking to have reduced responsibility in the case, citing Hasan's perceived intention to receive the death penalty.
Hasan disagreed, calling his attorneys' assertion a "twist of the facts." The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, adjourned court Wednesday morning before any witnesses were heard.
Osborn sided with Hasan on Thursday, saying it is clear the standby attorneys simply disagree with Hasan's defense strategy. She also ordered the attorneys to continue in their role aiding Hasan.
Still, the court-martial again bogged down. More objections from Hasan's court-appointed defense team started Day 3 of the trial, forcing the judge to call a short recess to sort through the matter.
The case has been besieged with delays, ranging from Hasan -- an American-born Muslim -- refusing to shave his beard in accordance with military code to a previous judge being removed for perceived bias against the defendant. Both sides presented opening statements Tuesday, and some witnesses testified in a courtroom protected with tight military security.
Hasan, 42, faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of premeditated attempted murder. He could face the death penalty if convicted -- and could be the first person the military puts to death in five decades.
Everything about the case so far - from having a commissioned officer accused of murder to the scale of killing and the volume of evidence against the accused - makes it an historically unique case, said Geoffrey Corn, a former Army judge advocate who teaches military and national security law at South Texas College of Law in Houston.
"The case is unprecedented on so many levels," Corn said. "It's totally unique in the annals of criminal military justice."
On Tuesday, Hasan's one-minute opening statement included an unexpected admission of guilt and a sworn allegiance to the mujahideen, or holy warriors.
After hearing Hasan's first day of self-representation, his standby counsel asked to be removed from the case. "We don't want to be asked to assist in the goal of helping him achieve the death penalty," said Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, the lead defense attorney.