Army Builds Case Against Alleged Fort Hood Shooter
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
The military has now filed formal charges against Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan in Texas. He faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and could face the death penalty if convicted of last weeks shootings at Fort Hood. Once the case goes to trial, it will surely be one of the most high profile cases ever within the military's justice system. NPRs Jeff Brady reports.
JEFF BRADY: At the entrance to Fort Hood, Chris Gray, from the Armys Criminal Investigation Division, read the charges along with the rest of his prepared script.
Mr. CHRIS GRAY (U.S.�Army): I will not be releasing any details today that will jeopardize our ongoing criminal investigation or future legal proceedings.
BRADY: Meantime, a few hours away, at a hospital in San Antonio, Major Hasan had received notice of the charges. His lawyer, John Galligan, was upset the Army didn't tell him so he could be by his clients side to explain the documents.
Mr. JOHN GALLIGAN (Attorney): I like to believe a system in any court is going to be fair, impartial, just. But you know, were not on video or anything like that, but I think it should be apparent to you just looking at my face - this has not made me a happy man.
BRADY: Failing to notify the opposing counsel might seem like a pretty big thing to just forget, but Eugene Fidell doesnt think it will affect the case. He teaches military law at Yale.
Professor EUGENE FIDELL (Yale University): I don't think it has any practical consequences, but if I were directing this play, I would have written it differently.
BRADY: Over the coming months and possibly years, Fidell predicts were in for a huge trial on a scale hes never seen in his 40 year military justice career. So it might be helpful to understand a little bit more about that system. Fidell says much is the same as the civilian courts in the U.S. One difference is the jury. Instead of randomly choosing people, in military courts the posts commanding officer picks jurors.
Prof. FIDELL: Theyre selected according to age, judicial temperament, experience, education. So theres a sense in which they can be thought of as a blue-ribbon jury. Thats certainly different from a civilian jury.
BRADY: And Fidell says the grand jury process is different in military courts, because the defendants attorney actually gets to sit in and even call witnesses. But all that is far down the road. A trial date hasnt even been set. And there likely will be a fight over where the trial is held. Also, the investigation is still in the beginning stages. Chris Gray with the Army says a huge crime scene around the shooting area remains active.
Mr. GRAY: Additionally, some of the witnesses that experienced this tragic event are still seeking medical attention and we have not been able to talk to them and the special agents have not been able to speak with them yet.
BRADY: Meantime, President Barack Obama has ordered a parallel investigation to determine if the government ignored warning signs about Nidal Hasan.
Jeff Brady, NPR News, Killeen, Texas.