FORT BRAGG, N.C. – An Army sergeant on trial in the grenade killings of two officers in Kuwait (search) told the judge Friday he disagrees with his lawyers about one juror selected to hear his case.
The judge, Col. Stephen Henley (search), recessed for two hours to give both sides time to research the issue. Sgt. Hasan Akbar's (search) lawyers have a free challenge remaining, and the judge said there was still a chance the juror could be struck.
Akbar didn't specify his objection to the juror, one of 15 chosen for the panel, which begins hearing the case Monday.
"Since it's my life Akbar, 33, could face death if convicted of the March 2003 grenade attack at Camp Pennsylvania (search) in Kuwait, and military lawyers on both sides asked potential jurors their opinions on capital punishment.
From the pool of 20 called to court Wednesday, lawyers for both sides had cut a total of five. Three were eliminated because they expressed opposition to the death penalty, which Akbar potentially faces. Another was sent home because he said he could not consider any punishment less than death. A fifth was removed because of his links to a 1995 sniper attack at Fort Bragg that killed a friend.
Defense lawyer Capt. David Coombs told Henley that the defense decided to object to only one potential juror -- the one who would only consider the death penalty -- and "we explained our reasons for that."
If Akbar succeeds in getting the other juror taken off the panel, there will be 14 officers and sergeants hearing the court-martial. Under military rules, a jury must have at least 12 members and may have more.
Akbar's court-martial marks the first time since the Vietnam War that a soldier has been prosecuted for the murder or attempted murder of another soldier during wartime.
Prosecutors say Akbar confessed to the grenade attack in the opening days of the Iraq war and told investigators he was worried that United States forces would harm fellow Muslims in the war.
Akbar's lawyers aren't contesting the facts of the attack but plan a defense based on diminished capacity or insanity.
He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. The attack killed Army Capt. Christopher Seifert, 27, and Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone, 40. Fourteen other soldiers were injured.