Fort Hood suspect’s attorney wants hearing closed over fears of inability for a fair trial

By Angela K. Brown, AP
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fort Hood suspect’s attorney seeks closed hearing

FORT WORTH, Texas — The media and others should not be allowed to hear testimony next month from about three dozen survivors of last year’s Fort Hood shooting rampage because the suspect, an Army psychiatrist, will be unable to get a fair trial, his attorney said Wednesday.

Defense attorney John Galligan said he has requested that the Oct. 12 Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, be closed “to all spectators.” The issue is to be addressed at a Thursday hearing in Fort Hood where attorneys also were to discuss what documents they still need in the case.

Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 shooting in a building on the sprawling Texas Army post.

Col. James L. Pohl, a military judge who is acting as the investigating officer in the case, has said he plans to call the 32 injured victims as witnesses during the Article 32 hearing. Pohl will decide later whether Hasan should to go trial.

“An Article 32 hearing is often equated to a grand jury proceeding, and the media and the public don’t have access to any grand jury proceedings in the civilian world,” Galligan told The Associated Press from his office near Fort Hood, about 120 miles south of Fort Worth.

If Galligan’s request is denied, he will appeal but does not plan to waive the Article 32 hearing, he said.

Military law calls for Article 32 hearings to be open to protect the defendants but can be closed by the investigating officer or commander who ordered the hearing. Some are closed, but usually at the government’s request.

In some hearings, only a few witnesses testify or statements are submitted instead, said Richard Stevens, an attorney who defends military cases and is not involved in Hasan’s case.

“It’s rare for all of the witnesses in a case to testify at an Article 32 hearing,” Stevens said.

Thursday’s hearing was to be Hasan’s second appearance in a Fort Hood courtroom. At a preliminary hearing June 1, Hasan wore his Army uniform and sat solemnly in a wheelchair. He only spoke when answering questions about the proceedings with a soft: “Yes, sir.”

Hasan, who was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot by two Fort Hood police officers, was treated at a San Antonio military hospital until his April transfer to the Bell County Jail, which houses military suspects for nearby Fort Hood. The military justice system does not have bail for defendants.

(This version CORRECTS that investigating officer, not prosecutors, plans to call 32 victims.)

will not be displayed