Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Nomaan Merchant and Paul J. Weber / The Associated Press
FORT HOOD, Texas - The soldier on trial for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood was allowed to continue representing himself on Thursday after the judge ordered his standby attorneys to stay on the case, despite their claims that the Army psychiatrist was trying to secure his own death sentence.
The military lawyers ordered to help Maj. Nidal Hasan had asked the judge to either scale back their advisory duties or allow them to take over his defense. They believe Hasan is trying to convince jurors to convict him and sentence him to death for the attack that killed 13 people and wounded 32 others at the Texas military base.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, denied that request Thursday in a heated exchange with the lead standby attorney, saying it was clear that the lawyers simply disagreed with Hasan's defense strategy. Hasan has been largely silent during the trial, and he objected only once Thursday as nearly a dozen witnesses testified.
But the attorneys were adamant and said they would appeal Osborn's ruling to a higher court. "We believe your order is causing us to violate our rules of professional conduct," said Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, who has said Hasan was trying to fulfill a death wish.
Osborn fired back that she had already heard and ruled on such arguments. She later ordered the attorneys to resume their advisory roles and allowed witnesses to begin testifying, including the only one Hasan briefly challenged.
Sgt. 1st Class Maria Guerra told jurors that amid the chaos of the shootings she had to quickly decide who she could save, so she grabbed a black marker and wrote a "D" on the foreheads of those she couldn't. To people lingering over the dead, she shouted: "You need to move on!"
When prosecutors asked Guerra to describe the scene, her voice began breaking.
"I see bodies. I see bodies everywhere. And I see blood," she said. "No one is moving. There was no movement. There was no sound. So I yelled out, 'Is everybody OK? ... I started hearing, 'Help me. I'm bleeding. I've been shot. Help me."'
Hasan objected when Guerra described hearing the gunman silence a woman who was crying out, "My baby! My baby!" Hasan interrupted to ask the judge, "Would you remind Sgt. 1st Class Guerra that she's under oath?"
Osborn did so, briskly. Then a prosecutor asked Guerra if there was anything she wanted to change about her testimony. She replied: "No, sir."