FORT HOOD, Texas – A military hearing to determine whether an Army psychiatrist should go to trial for last year's deadly Fort Hood shootings was unexpectedly stalled Tuesday, without testimony from any of the dozens of survivors, after defense attorneys requested a monthlong delay.
Col. James L. Pohl, a military judge acting as the investigating officer in the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, said he would rule Wednesday on the defense request to start the Article 32 hearing Nov. 8.
Lt. Col. Kris Poppe said Tuesday the delay was necessary because of certain issues but did not elaborate. He said attorneys needed a day to prepare the request in writing, and Pohl adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.
"We're not operating on a time limit or clock," Pohl said. "We've got to protect everybody's right."
Hasan, 40, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 attack, the worst mass shooting at an American military base. The Article 32 hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial.
Hasan's lead defense attorney declined after the hearing to say why the defense team asked for the delay or explain the issues mentioned court.
"Nothing can be said," John Galligan said. "We have work to do."
Even the start of Tuesday's proceeding was stalled for nearly three hours because of what Pohl described as scheduling issues. Later, Col. Michael Mulligan, the lead prosecutor, told Pohl the defense has had months to prepare and he opposes any further delays.
Tuesday was the third time Hasan appeared in a military courtroom for a hearing, and he did not speak as he sat in his wheelchair wearing his Army combat uniform. He pulled a knit cap over his ears and glanced around the room a couple of times, but otherwise looked at Pohl or his attorneys.
He was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot by Fort Hood police officers last Nov. 5, and he has been in custody since. The military justice system does not offer bail.
A few relatives of the victims who were in court Tuesday showed no reaction and appeared not to look in Hasan's direction. At least one soldier wounded in the attack was seen in a courthouse room. Prosecutors had planned to start calling witnesses Tuesday in the hearing expected to last at least three weeks.
Shortly after the hearing began, Poppe renewed a request that the hearing be closed to the public. Pohl denied the request as he had done last month, after defense attorneys said an open hearing would jeopardize Hasan's right to a fair trial because nearly three dozen injured victims were to testify.
At the military base early Tuesday, barriers blocked the front of the courthouse and soldiers stopped and searched all vehicles. Courtroom spectators passed through metal detectors, and green cloth covered fences were set up at the rear of the courthouse to prevent photographers from catching even a glimpse of Hasan as he arrived.
Only 10 members of the media were allowed in the 55-seat courtroom, and the rest could watch the proceedings from a live closed-circuit television feed in room in another building. More than 100 journalists from various agencies were at Fort Hood on Tuesday.