It is difficult to imagine how this case will not become the next capital court-martial, which will also raise all of the old issues with capital cases in the military–inadequate funding, inexperienced counsel (though Maj. Hasan currently has experienced civilian counsel and the TC is very experienced), and general views on the death penalty in America. Me thinks this isn’t the last Top 10 list that will feature this story.
That year we made the Ft. Hood shootings the #1 military justice story of 2010. At the time we also probably should have warned everyone that it would take more than two years to even get the case into a courtroom.
What we couldn’t have planned for was a nearly six month delay in the case while many fine jurists debated the length of MAJ Hasan’s facial hair. What began as a request to depart from grooming standards, and finally resulted in a CAAF opinion that dismissed the military judge for conflict of interest reasons, wound up right where it started, but with a new military judge. The new judge, COL Tara Osborn, ruled that MAJ Hasan can attend trial, if he wishes, with his beard.
Aside from Beard-gate, actual progress was being made in the court-martial, including potential members questionnaires and discussion of motions regarding pre-trial publicity and MAJ Hasan’s ability to get a fair trial and fair treatment from the convening authority. But, alas, Beard-gate consumed the better part of the last half of 2012 and now the trial looks to be set for . . . some time after mid-March according to the Ft. Hood docket.
Will there be more fascinating discussion of grooming standards at trial? Probably. Will 2013 finally see a trial on charges for the most notorious shooting of fellow servicemembers in the collective conscience of our nation? Hopefully. This is a military capital case so rushing into this thing isn’t necessary, though a little forward progress would be nice. I mean this was the same year that two capital courts-martial became non-capital cases after successful appeals and primarily because of rulings that always struck me as expedient but not particularly wise (though I am a tad biased). As with #3, I see this one appearing at least one more time on our Top 10 list, though that’s not exactly going out on a limb in this case.