Jury selection starts at Fort Hood

Defendant says he has no choice about wearing uniform.



    The military courthouse on the edge of Fort Hood, Texas, has been surrounded by hundreds of stacked shipping containers and by tall dirt- and sand-filled barriers designed to protect it against a bomb blast. Armed soldiers stand guard around the building.

    Tight security measures are in place at the Texas Army post and Killeen, Texas, in preparation for the capital murder trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan.

    Just two years after a bomb attack was thwarted in Killeen, some military law experts say the community may once again be a target, by supporters of Hasan, an American-born Muslim who has tried to justify the deadly rampage as protecting Taliban leaders.

    "He's admitted he's on the side of terrorists ... so this area is now a high threat level for jihadists," said Jeff Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio. He is not involved in Hasan's case.

    In Killeen, law enforcement officials won't discuss security specifics. But businesses are receiving "If you see something, say something" posters.

    The Associated Press

FORT HOOD, Texas - "I can't take any pride in wearing this uniform," Maj. Nidal Hasan told military judge Col. Tara Osborn. "I want the panel to know that, that I am being forced to wear it." Hasan, who is acting as his own attorney, didn't question members of the initial 20-officer group Tuesday, instead saying he may question panel members individually Wednesday morning when jury selection continues.

It could take several weeks to choose a jury of 13 to 16 officers; 12 are required to render a verdict, with extra officers seated in case any have to leave the jury. The trial phase is expected to begin Aug. 6 and last up to three months.

Of the first 20, six were dismissed Tuesday after questioning from Osborn and prosecutors, including one who knew slain civilian physician's assistant Michael Cahill. Another officer said he had a family member who was a victim of murder or attempted murder.

Hasan faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5, 2009, mass shooting of unarmed soldiers at a Fort Hood medical processing center.

Jurors must be of a higher rank than Hasan, and Tuesday's group included colonels, lieutenant colonels and majors with more experience than Hasan. Some were from installations as far away as Naples, Italy. More than 120 officers have been selected to be part of the jury pool.

The remaining officers, who include two women and 12 men, said that, although they had followed media coverage of the shootings, they could serve as impartial jurors.

Hasan had proposed more than 100 questions for jurors, touching on everything from their feelings on Muslim soldiers to the question of remorse, but on Tuesday indicated he may not conduct lengthy questioning. "I think we could do this pretty quickly," Hasan told Osborn.

Osborn initially said she would schedule six potential jurors per day for individual questions, but, after hearing from Hasan, said she could call as many as 10 a day. Jury questioning is being scheduled around Hasan's prayer schedule.

Hasan was wearing his everyday camouflage uniform and spoke calmly and clearly.

In initial instructions, Osborn ordered potential jurors not to focus on Hasan's beard, which he grew in violation of Army standards, telling them not to "hold it against him." She also told them he wasn't wearing his dress uniform for medical reasons - Hasan was paralyzed from the chest down in a shootout with Fort Hood police. She didn't alert the officers to Hasan's thoughts on wearing a uniform, but told Hasan he could tell jurors "at the appropriate time" if he wished.

Earlier Tuesday, during the final pretrial hearing before the court-martial, Hasan confirmed that he would represent himself for the duration of the trial. He told Osborn that if she relented and allowed him to put on a "defense of others" strategy, he planned to hire former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. But Osborn said she wouldn't allow Hasan to claim that defense.

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