by Robert Spencer
Let him speak. Let the world hear him preach Islam and jihad and explain that that was why he murdered thirteen people in cold blood. Let the world see a jihadist justifying his actions. "Fort Hood suspect's defense has few options," by Angela K. Brown for the Associated Press, July 9:
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — More than two dozen soldiers have testified about the day they were shot in a crowded Fort Hood building in November 2009. Some told of looking the gunman in the eye as he fired. A Senate investigation has announced its findings about the suspect: before the rampage, the Army psychiatrist had become an Islamic extremist and a "ticking time bomb."
Now the defense team for Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, faces what seems like an impossible task of preventing a conviction and potential death sentence in one of the highest profile cases in military history.
Hasan, 40, who remains jailed and was paralyzed after police shot him that day, could go to trial later this year at Fort Hood, the Texas Army post about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Fort Worth. On Wednesday, Fort Hood's commander ordered Hasan, who is of Palestinian descent, to stand trial after reviewing documents from last fall's evidentiary hearing.
For the defense lawyers, "there are huge challenges in this case — challenges that may not be present in other capital cases," said Richard Stevens, a military defense attorney who is not involved in the case....
"People will want to hear the other side during the court-martial, but what could he possibly say in his defense?" said Staff Sgt. Jeannette Juroff, who was working in a nearby building that day and helped wounded soldiers....
A U.S. Senate report released earlier this year charges that evidence of Hasan's radicalization was "on full display" to his military superiors, and that an instructor and colleague "each referred to Hasan as a 'ticking time bomb,'" but no action was taken to discharge him and his evaluations were sanitized.
A joint terrorism task force overseen by the FBI learned late in 2009 of Hasan's repeated contact with U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who encouraged Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The FBI has said the task force did not refer early information about Hasan to his military superiors because it concluded he wasn't linked to terrorism....
But Hasan's defense team could argue that he has mental illness without using an insanity defense — especially if he's convicted and they are trying to avoid a death sentence.
"Sometimes one prong of the (mental health evaluation) report will show that a defendant has a mental issue like depression, and the defense can use whatever is in that report at sentencing as mitigating factors," said Greg T. Rinckey, a New York attorney who defends military clients and is not involved with the Hasan case.
That defense tactic was used in the 2005 trial of Sgt. Hasan Akbar. His attorneys didn't dispute that he threw grenades into fellow soldiers' tents in Kuwait in 2003 and then fired on them. But they said he was mentally ill — although legally sane. Akbar was convicted and sentenced to death. His case remains on appeal....
Akbar was not mentally ill unless jihad is a mental illness.
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