FORT WORTH, Texas – A defense attorney on Thursday blocked a mental evaluation for the Army psychiatrist accused in last year's shooting rampage at Fort Hood, saying it should not be conducted before a hearing to determine whether his client will stand trial.
John Galligan, the lead defense attorney for Maj. Nidal Hasan, said Thursday that he gave a three-member military mental health panel written objections about the exam.
The panel must determine whether Hasan is competent to stand trial, and also will determine Hasan's mental status the day of the Nov. 5 shooting that left 13 dead and nearly three dozen wounded on the Texas Army post.
Galligan said after he gave the panel his objections, they went inside the jail to see Hasan, who signed a document that said: "I do not wish to voluntarily participate in this exam under the current conditions and time frame." The panel signed the document and left, Galligan said.
Col. Morgan Lamb, a Fort Hood brigade commander appointed to oversee judicial matters in Hasan's case, on Monday ordered that the evaluation be done before next week's Article 32 hearing. The hearing will be held to determine whether Hasan will stand trial on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
The mental exam had been set for later this year or early next year at Galligan's request.
At the Article 32 hearing, expected to last several weeks, the injured victims will testify about what happened that day. The hearing is similar to a grand jury proceeding, and the mental panel's exam and findings are a separate issue.
Fort Hood officials did not immediately return calls to The Associated Press seeking comment about when the mental evaluation might take place or if Lamb could force Hasan to comply now.
The panel's job is to determine whether Hasan had a severe mental illness at the time of the shooting, and if so, whether such a condition prevented him from knowing at the time that his alleged actions were wrong. They also must assess if he is competent to stand trial, based on military law.
Hasan, 40, has been in custody since the shootings, first in a San Antonio military hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds that left him paralyzed. Since April he has been in the nearby Bell County Jail, which houses military suspects for Fort Hood, about 120 miles south of Fort Worth. The military justice system does not have bail for defendants.