NPR logo Nidal Hasan Lawyer Doubts Client Can Get Fair Ft. Hood Trial

Nidal Hasan Lawyer Doubts Client Can Get Fair Ft. Hood Trial

John Galligan, the retired colonel and former military lawyer representing alleged Ft. Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan on Wednesday praised the military justice system he served in for 30 years as even better than the civilian system.

But in an interview with Melissa Block, an All Things Considered host, he sounded like a man whose mind was split on the issue.

While he spoke approvingly of the military justice system, he questioned whether his client could get a fair trial at the base where the shooting rampage occurred or have his mental status accurately assessed at military facilities.

Galligan said:

... I know enough about the military justice system to be sufficiently concerned that in a high profile case such as this, it's imperative that we be ever vigilant to ensure a fair trial.

And that ranges everywhere from ensuring that his rights against self incrimination are respected all the way to ensuring that a proper forum, one free from prejudice is available to the jury...

Everyday I get up I think more about the issues you know it presents. And they're not easy issues. And for that reason, there's no immediate, no easy answer.

I would just say that your listeners should join me in requesting that everybody make sure that we go down this road that we call military justice that we make sure that we stay on track so that we give Maj. Hasan a fair impartial hearing and trial. That's what we want not just for him. It's also what we want for each and every one of us.

All of those are issues that I'm starting to have to assess their impact on this case. Can he get a fair trial at Ft. Hood? I have my doubts. Are there issues that we're going to have to address with respect to mental responsibility? Clearly there are. And are they issues that can be properly evaluated at Ft. Hood. Again, I have my doubts. Can they be evaluated properly at Darnell, I mean Walter Reed? Maybe not.

Galligan, retired from the military Judge Advocates Corps, said he, along with the military lawyer assigned to Hasan, spoke briefly with the major accused of killing 13 people and wounding dozens on the base last Thursday. He said the meeting was brief and held mainly so he could make certain that Hasan wanted him to represent him. Galligan was retained by Hasan's family.

He described Hasan, who is intensive care, as seeming very tired and sedated.

Melissa asked Galligan why he agreed to represent Hasan. He said defending soldiers was his way of giving back.

I believe soldiers give much to their country. And it's important that we as attorneys, to the extent we can give back to them by making sure any time they find themselves in the criminal-justice arena, that we make sure they get a fair trial.

Galligan is deeply experienced in military justice, serving as a defense lawyer, a prosecutor and a judge. He served part of his military at Ft. Hood.

Melissa asked if his familiarity with Ft. Hood — he knows military lawyers serving there now — ll left him at all feeling conflicted. Galligan said it didn't.

If I were to feel any uncertainty, either because of qualifications or because of conflict, I would raise those directly with my client and I would be the first to ask that I remove myself from representation.