Hearing postponed over Fort Hood shooting suspect's beard

USUHS
Friday, June 8, 2012 - 1:02pm

A military judge on Friday postponed a hearing on whether the government should pay for an expert neurologist for Maj. Nidal Hasan, the military psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood.

The judge, Col. Gregory Gross, delayed the hearing after Hasan appeared in court with a beard, violating military grooming standards, according to a Fort Hood news release.

"As a result, the military judge delayed pre-trial motions until the near future, when either a closed circuit feed can be set up for the accused to watch the hearings from outside the court room or the accused complies with court order to appear with proper military grooming standards," the news release said.

Hasan's attorneys "indicated their intent to file a request for exception to policy for religious accommodation to a higher command," the media advisory said.

Hasan's request for a neurologist is one of several motions before the judge, military officials at the base said.

Hasan faces a possible death penalty when he goes on trial August 20. The military has charged Hasan with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in connection with the November 5, 2009, shootings.

Hasan's court-martial, initially slated to begin in March, has been twice delayed at the request of the defense, which has said it needs more time to review the evidence in the case.

Much has been made about Hasan's mental health after the attack at a building at Fort Hood, where he is accused of opening fire on soldiers who were waiting to be screened and complete paperwork before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the aftermath of the shootings, radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki told Aljazeera.net that he had communicated with Hasan for about a year before the soldier allegedly went on the rampage. Al-Awaki, a leading figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in a U.S. drone strike that targeted him in Yemen in 2011.

The U.S. government has refused to confirm reports that its intelligence agencies monitored Hasan's alleged e-mail contacts with al-Awlaki.

The shootings at Fort Hood rocked the military community.

There were also questions about how he was evaluated, promoted and transferred to Fort Hood with plans to deploy to Afghanistan despite signs that he was having problems.

A military review of Hasan's records in the aftermath of the massacre found that he was promoted despite his supervisors' concerns about his extremist views on Islam and odd behavior.

A congressional report labeled him "a smoking gun" and ripped into the government for not sounding an alarm sooner.

As Hasan's case has moved through the military judicial system, the families of the victims filed suit in November, seeking $750 million in compensation from the government for failing to stop the attacks.

Hasan, who was shot by a civilian police officer at Fort Hood during the attack, is paralyzed from the chest down.

-- CNN's Michael Martinez and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

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