The lawyer representing Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 people in a shooting spree at Fort Hood, raised doubts Wednesday about whether his client can get a fair trial at the post.
"I also 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 that he gets a fair trial," John Galligan said during an interview with NPR's Melissa Block.
"Can he get a fair trial at Fort Hood? I have my doubts," said Galligan, a defense attorney who retired after 30 years in the Army, most in the Judge Advocate General's Corps.
Hasan, 39, is accused of opening fire last week at the crowded Army post in Texas, killing 13 people and wounding more than 40 others before being shot by two civilian police officers. Investigators are trying to establish a motive for the rampage.
Details have emerged that Hasan was a Muslim who was strongly opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His family has said the Army psychiatrist was trying to get out of being deployed to Afghanistan later this month.
Galligan said his own connections with Fort Hood, including time spent there as a judge, would not impede his ability to serve as Hasan's lawyer.
"The moment I feel any uncertainty, either because of qualifications or because of conflict, I would be the first to raise those directly with my client, and I'd be the first to ask that I remove myself from further representation," he said. "I wouldn't enter into this if I didn't feel that I could give 100 percent in accordance with the law on behalf of him and his defense. ... I'm very proud when I can defend a soldier."
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences via AP
A portrait taken of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan upon entering the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Disaster and Military Psychiatry Fellowship program in 2007.
A portrait taken of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan upon entering the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Disaster and Military Psychiatry Fellowship program in 2007. Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences via AP
Galligan said he recently met with Hasan, who remains hospitalized in stable condition at Fort Sam Houston's Brooke Army Medical Center near San Antonio.
"It was very brief. It was limited to the subject of his representation," Galligan said. He and the military lawyer also representing Hasan explained their roles and Hasan's rights pertaining to his representation.
Hasan "seemed to understand all of that fully, seemed satisfied with at least the two of us being the current defense team," Galligan said. "And then because it appeared to me that he was very, very tired and obviously on medication or sedatives, that pretty much concluded my meeting with him."
Meanwhile, Congress was preparing to hold hearings on the shootings as conflicting reports emerged about whether or not the accused gunman's contact with a radical Muslim cleric had been investigated.
Two government officials have said a joint terrorism task force overseen by the FBI was notified of communications between Hasan and a radical Yemeni imam identified as Anwar al-Awlaki. But a military official denied knowing about the contacts between the two, according to The Associated Press.
Awlaki's personal Web site contained encouragements for Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Iraq.
From NPR and wire reports