(KILLEEN, Texas) — Major Nidal Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist on trial for killing 13 people during a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, will be permitted to continue to represent himself at his court martial, a judge ruled Thursday.
Defense lawyers who have been helping Hasan but not representing him asked the judge Wednesday for permission to withdraw from the case, claiming the confessed shooter was not putting up a reasonable defense and was essentially working with prosecutors to hasten his conviction and execution.
Judge Col. Tara Osborn ruled that the defendant and his legal team were merely disagreeing on strategy, and Hasan, who was ruled fit to stand trial, could continue to be his own lawyer.
“Standby counsel may not agree with the way the accused is proceeding,” Osborn said, according to ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV. “But Major Hasan determines his strategy, not standby counsel.”
Meanwhile, the attorneys are seeking to appeal the judge’s decision so they secure permission to withdraw.
Hasan has never denied entering the Soldier Readiness Processing Center in 2009, where he shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” and opened fire on unarmed soldiers and civilians.
In his opening statement on Tuesday Hasan confessed to being a mass murderer, saying, “the evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter.”
Hasan chose not to cross examine witnesses and has raised no objections, proof, his legal team said, he is unfit to represent himself.
“It is clear his goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty and is working toward a death penalty,” Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, a military lawyer assigned to help Hasan make his case, argued Wednesday.
Hasan faces 13 counts of murder and more than 30 counts of attempted murder. If convicted he faces the death penalty.
Despite his comments before the crime, his links to an Al Qaeda leader via Internet communications and admissions in court that he is a mujahadeen, or “Holy fighter,” the government still considers the shooting to be an instance of “workplace violence.”
The classification, which critics, victims, and their families alike have lobbied the Obama administration to change, denies the victims both Purple Hearts and the medical and other benefits that honor would bestow upon them.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
John Clyde, KSL.com
Elise Labott, Kevin Liptak and Patrick Oppmann, CNN
Seth Fiegerman, CNN