(FORT HOOD, Texas) — Defense lawyers for accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan won a dual victory on Monday when an appellate court kicked the presiding judge off the case and ruled that the suspect can keep the beard that Col. Gregory Gross demanded Hasan shave off multiple times.
Hasan, the Army major accused of gunning down 13 people and wounding 32 others at the Texas Army post in 2009, insisted his beard was protected by freedom of religious expression since he is a Muslim.
Gross disagreed with that argument, saying Hasan violated military code by keeping his facial hair and held him in contempt of court, ordering that it be forcibly shaved.
The prosecution was also concerned that the beard would make it more difficult for witnesses to recognize Hasan since he was clean shaven at the time he allegedly went on the shooting spree.
However, an appeals court ruled that military command, not a military judge, has the last word on grooming standards and determined that Gross could no longer appear unbiased during the trial, which has yet to start.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN
Miranda Green, CNN
Seth Fiegerman, CNN