Colonel Gregory Gross, the judge for the court-martial of Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, re-set the trial date to June, 12, 2012. Previously scheduled to begin on March 5, 2012, the defense attorneys requested a delay so that they can better prepare for the trial. The judge agreed that one of the defense experts, a specialist in mitigation evidence, needs more time to complete his review of Hasan's background. The judge also agreed that the defense team needs more time to sift through the volumes of documents related to this case.
The judge considered other motions and requests from both the defense and prosecution teams in today's hearing. The judge ruled on motions presented by the defense attorneys last October, where they requested expert assistance on the effect of pre-trial publicity and for help in selecting panel (jury) members. The judge denied the pre-trial publicity expert, but granted the panel selection expert. This expert will assist the defense attorneys in questioning the panel members before the court-martial to determine which members should be excused from sitting on the panel.
The defense also filed a motion to compel the prosecution to provide them with notes from meetings and conversations between the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other high-ranking officials in the aftermath of the shooting on Fort Hood on November 5, 2009. The defense attorneys have requested the notes so they can determine if any matter was discussed which may have unlawfully influenced the independent discretion of Hasan's chain of command to prosecute him. The prosecution opposed the motion, saying that the Army officers who have taken action in this prosecution were under no influence from higher officials to do so. The judge reserved ruling on this matter until a later date.
Another motion considered was the prosecution team's request that investigation reports prepared by the U.S. Department of Defense regarding Hasan's military career be protected from further dissemination by the defense attorneys. The defense attorneys oppose such a protective order and requested that the judge allow them time to prepare a response to the prosecution's motion. Once the judge receives the response, he will hear arguments from both sides before ruling on the motion.
The judge commented on a matter that had been discussed at the last hearing in November. The defense attorneys have requested they be allowed to talk privately with the Commanding General of Fort Hood and the Staff Judge Advocate who gives legal advice to the Commanding General, to inquire into their qualifications to proceed with this case as a capital murder trial.
The prosecution asserts that such private access is unnecessary, and asked the judge for more time to prepare a response to the defense request. The judge granted them more time, and he will not rule on this matter until he considers the prosecution's response.
The judge will prepare a docketing order based on the new trial date, and he may allow both sides to conduct hearings or conferences with him on a weekly basis as the trial date grows near. He will allow both sides to submit questions to the pool of potential panel members before they are selected for this trial.
Hasan is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
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