Fort Hood Trial Delayed; Suspect To Represent Himself

In another high-profile military trial, Maj. Nidal Hasan will be defending himself in the Fort Hood murders case. He's accused of murdering 13 people at the Texas Army post in 2009.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's get an update now on another high-profile military case: the trial of Major Nidal Hasan. Hasan is the Army psychiatrist accused of murdering 13 of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009. Jury selection in that trial has been delayed until next week, as Hasan gets ready to defend himself. And he said that defense will involve a claim that he was defending people in Afghanistan.

From Dallas, here's NPR's Wade Goodwyn.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: They say a defendant who represents himself in a court of law has a fool for a client. Nevertheless, this week, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan was granted permission to fire his lawyers, yet again, and now he will represent himself. Hasan told the presiding judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, that he wanted to mount his defense case around the legal theory that he acted in defense of others.

If so, that means Hasan will concede that he shot dozens of people, killing 13. Defense of others is a legal principle that violence can be justified to protect anyone who faces an immediate threat of illegal violence.

Hasan's theory runs into problems on at least two important counts. First, America's military action in Afghanistan was approved by Congress, and so is legal. And the threat of violence the defendant is acting to prevent must be imminent, like a gun being drawn and pointed at someone's head. It will be difficult for Hasan to argue that soldiers at Ft. Hood posed an imminent threat to Taliban operatives half a world away.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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