FORT HOOD –– The standby defense attorneys for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan during his court martial asked the judge Wednesday to let them take over or reduce their role, arguing they are only assisting his attempt to be sentenced to death for the 2009 massacre on post.
“It became clear during his opening statements; his goal is to remove impediments to the death penalty and he is working towards a death penalty,” said Col. Kris Poppe during the second day of testimony in the case.
“You honor, I object,” Hasan replied. “That’s a twist to the facts.”
Military Judge Col. Tara Osborn cleared the courtroom to have an ex parte hearing, since there’s a potential for privileged information to be shared. She then recessed the trial until 9 a.m. Thursday to consider the motion to withdraw.
Army prosecutors had scheduled another 12 witnesses to testify on Wednesday.
Hasan faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. He has not offered substantial cross examination of any of the prosecution's witnesses, who included one of the men he's accused of wounding.
"The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter," he said in an opening statement that lasted little more than a minute The evidence, he added, would "only show one side."
In May, Judge Osborn agreed to let Hasan act as his own attorney and placed his Army defense attorneys in a “standby” role.
“We stand ready to defend Major Hasan if he wants to fight the death penalty,” Poppe continued.
The three standby defense attorneys suggest Hasan simply wants to die since he admitted he’s the shooter during opening statements on Tuesday. He is not offering objections in court.
“It’s repugnant to a defense counsel and contrary to what our professional obligations may be,” Poppe said.“We ask the court modify the previous order and place us in true standby status. It is assisting him in achieving a goal.”
Hasan wanted to plead guilty to murder and attempted murder, but military rules forbid guilty pleas in death penalty cases.
If convicted, Hasan could get the death penalty. No American soldier has been executed since 1961, and military prosecutors showed that they would take no chance of fumbling details that could jeopardize any conviction.
The trial is playing out amid high security at Fort Hood, where armed guards stood in doorways and 15-foot stacks of shock-absorbing barriers obscured the view of the courthouse. Jurors were told to prepare for a trial that could take months, and Hasan, who is in a wheelchair, needs regular breaks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report