First Day of Jury Selection in Fort Hood Trial Complete
Update: Six of the first 20 potential panelists in the trail of Major Nidal Hasan were dismissed today in the first day of jury selection. The court will resume tomorrow and split the remaining panelists into groups for individual questioning. The first group will begin at 9 a.m. and the second group will be questioned at 2:30 p.m. Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 in a shooting at the Fort Hood army post in 2009.
Update(1:26 p.m.): Jury selection began at 2:30 p.m. More than 140 panelists have been summoned from around the country for the trial. The first twenty are being questioned today.
The panel must consist of 12 members of the military who outrank the accused.
First, they answer questions as a group and then individually. Each side can only ask questions that were preapproved by trial judge Col. Tara Osborn.
The panel must unanimously decide if Hasan is guilty or not guilty. Hasan could face the death penalty or life in prison. If the panel chooses the death penalty, it must also be a unanimous decision.
Jury selection could take a few weeks. The judge has said when the 12 panelists are chosen, there will be a four day break for family members to fly to Fort Hood for the trial. The earliest day the trial could begin is August 6.
Original post (12:45 p.m.): After years of delay, jury selection is expected to begin today in the court martial of Major Nidal Hasan, the army psychiatrist accused of opening fire at the Fort Hood army post, killing 13 people and injuring more than 30 in 2009.
In a court martial, a jury is formally called a panel. Twenty panelists will be questioned today.
In a pretrial hearing this morning, Hasan confirmed he will continue to represent himself, despite consulting an outside lawyer, in case the court allows him to use the "defense of others" argument: Hasan has said he opened fire to protect Muslims and the Taliban, but a judge ruled earlier he could not use that as a defense. The judge reaffirmed that ruling.
Hasan also said he wanted the record to show he is being forced to wear a active combat uniform during the trial.
"I can't take pride in wearing this uniform," Hasan said. "It represents an enemy of Islam."
The trial judge, Col. Tara Osborn, also said today Hasan violated court orders by releasing a confidential document to the local newspaper without asking her to unseal the document. She warned Hasan that other violations could jeopardize his ability to represent himself in trial.
Security at Ford Hood was heightened this morning in preparation for the trial. The East Gate entrance will be closed every morning during the trial. Members of the media were escorted onto the base and into a briefing room, where they were sequestered until Hasan was transported to the courthouse. Only 12 members of the media are permitted in the courtroom everyday, based on a lottery system.
Jury selection is expected to take several weeks. It will be a panel of at least 12 officers who outrank the accused, which must unanimously decide if Hasan is guilty or not guilty. Hasan will be defending himself in the trial. He faces the death penalty or life in prison.