Defense: Exam won't stop Fort Hood suspect's trial

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A military panel's mental evaluation of the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood will not prevent the military from pursuing a court-martial, his lead defense attorney said Tuesday.

The report submitted to Army officials and defense attorneys last week offers an assessment of Maj. Nidal Hasan's mental state during the November 2009 shootings that killed 13 and wounded more than two dozen others, and whether he is competent to stand trial.

Military law experts have said that if such a panel were to determine a defendant is not competent to stand trial, or has a severe mental illness preventing him from knowing at the time that his alleged actions were wrong, the case likely would be delayed or even dismissed.

Hasan's lead attorney, John Galligan, declined Tuesday to discuss the report's findings but said it would not affect the Army's plans for the case. Galligan said he still contends the three-member panel of mental health professionals did not have all the information needed for the evaluation, including key government reports about the shooting that have yet to be released.

"This report will not stop the Army from proceeding down the path they've always been on: getting the case into the courtroom and seeking the death penalty against my client," Galligan told The Associated Press on Tuesday from his office near Fort Hood, about 125 miles south of Fort Worth. "I don't think this report should be accepted as reasonable or objective."

The Army does not disclose such reports until a decision has been made about whether a case will go to court, said Chris Haug, a Fort Hood spokesman. He declined further comment about the Hasan case.

Galligan said he will disclose the results of the evaluation after a brigade commander, who received the report, makes a recommendation next month on whether Hasan should stand trial and face the death penalty for 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. After that, a commanding general will make the final decision.

An Army colonel who presided over an evidentiary hearing last fall made an initial recommendation that Hasan should be court-martialed and face the death penalty. Army officials have not said whether they would seek that punishment if Hasan goes to trial.