Trial of Fort Hood shooting suspect could be lengthy affair

FORT WORTH — Complicated by a federal investigation into possible terrorist ties and the prospect of mental issues, the prosecution of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan will likely be a lengthy and intricate process, military legal experts say.

Hasan has been identified by military officials as the lone suspect in the Fort Hood shootings last week that left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded — the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. military installation.

A former Army staff judge advocate and military law expert at Texas Tech University suggests that it could take about two years to go to the military equivalent of a trial, depending on the defendant's health. And the outcome of the case would likely end up mired in complex appeals.

"We never had a case quite like this before . . . because of pretrial publicity, it will create a lot of complications," said Richard Rosen, vice chairman of the university’s law school and former military justice attorney at Fort Hood.

Many factors will make the legal process challenging for prosecutors and defense attorneys: the number of witnesses, whether the actions were related to terrorism, mental capacity and the prospect of the death penalty. What may be the most difficult decision, military legal experts say, is whether the case will be tried at Fort Hood.

The convening authority in the case, which will be one of Hasan's commanders, could request a change of venue.

Still, Rosen said, Hasan could get a fair trial.

"There could be a lot of prejudice there and, because of the tremendous pretrial publicity, there could be pressure to move the case elsewhere," he said. "But experience has been that military jurors are an independent bunch. The military jurists are smart people. The officers will all be college-educated and people with advanced degrees."

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