FORT HOOD — Survivors of the deadly Fort Hood massacre three-and-a-half years ago said they are anxious over the possibility that they might be cross-examined by their alleged attacker if a judge lets Maj. Nidal Hasan represent himself.
“It’s a huge concern,” said Army Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, now retired. “People are basically saying, ‘how do they expect us to act?’”
Col. Tara Osborn, the military judge in this case, said she will rule Monday on whether Hasan, 42, is physically able to present his own defense despite being paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after a shootout with police.
"They need to think about the repercussions of him representing himself and what that might do to the victims and families of the deceased," Sgt. Lunsford explained.
The former Army medic said Maj. Hasan shot him seven times — once in the head at close range and six times in his body. Blind now in his left eye, Sgt. Lunsford also lost half of his intestines while trying to recover from the 2009 attack.
“We’ve gone through major life changes,” he said. “[Hasan is] being treated like he’s the victim. What’s going to stop one of us from jumping across that table?”
Maj. Hasan has already fired his private defense attorney, and now he’s asking the military court to let him part ways with court-appointed Army attorneys and present his own defense, including questioning witnesses and victims.
Last week, Col. Osborn said a psychiatrist deemed Hasan mentally capable to be his own lawyer, but she ordered him to undergo a physical examination to determine whether he is physically able to defend himself. Col. Osborn also asked the doctor who performed the exam to testify on Monday.
The accused mass murderer appeared in court last Wednesday wearing his Army combat uniform and sporting a bushy black-and-gray beard sitting in his wheelchair. Maj. Hasan was more active than at previous proceedings as he looked through folders and examined papers on the defense table along with addressing the judge.
“Representing yourself is a much more taxing enterprise physically than just sitting there,” Col. Osborn told Maj. Hasan.
“Yes, I understand that,” he responded.
Hasan cannot sit for more than five hours at a time, his attorneys told the judge.
“I’m concerned about your physical limitations,” the judge continued. “Are you a paraplegic?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Hasan said.
Hasan, a devout Muslim, was an Army psychiatrist who opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was weeks away from being deployed when he was accused of committing the mass murder.
He faces 13 counts of premeditated murder in the shooting deaths of soldiers and civilians at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on post. In addition, the Army major also faces 32 counts of attempted murder.
If convicted, he is eligible for the death penalty.
Selection of a jury, known as a "panel" in the military justice system, is supposed to begin on Wednesday. After numerous delays, Hasan’s trial is scheduled to begin July 1.
“He’s not going to win this battle... or this war,” Lunsford promised.
WFAA executive producer Meagan Harris contributed to this story.