Accused in Fort Hood massacre, Hasan tells jury at court-martial: 'I am the shooter'

Updated: If there was any doubt about U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s role in the 2009 shooting massacre that killed 13 and wounded 32 at Fort Hood, Texas, he dispelled it during his opening statement on Tuesday in his court martial over the attack.

“On November 5, 2009, 13 U.S. soldiers were killed and many more injured. The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter,” Hassan, who is representing himself, told the jury, a panel of 13 military officers, according to the Associated Press and the Washington Post (reg. req.).

His standby lawyer, Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, said he was willing to step up and represent Hasan. But if his client continues “working toward a death penalty,” Poppe told the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, defense counsel wants its role in the murder case minimized.

She recessed the trial until Thursday as she decides how to handle Poppe’s motion for a more limited role, according to WFAA and the Washington Post (reg. req.).

Poppe and two other standby defense attorneys say Hasan is trying to get the death penalty rather than defending his case.

“It’s repugnant to a defense counsel and contrary to what our professional obligations may be,” Poppe told Osborn. “We ask the court modify the previous order and place us in true standby status.”

Hasan has indicated he wants to pursue a “defense of others” strategy, based on his Muslim religious beliefs and a desire to protect Taliban leaders when he shot defenseless soldiers who were soon to be deployed to Afghanistan. During his brief opening statement, he said he had been on the wrong side of a war against Islam and had switched, it appears, to what he considered the right side.

“We the mujahideen are imperfect Muslims trying to establish the perfect religion in the land of the supreme God,” said Hasan, a 42-year-old psychiatrist.

Earlier in the case, there was considerable dispute over whether Hasan could refuse to shave, in defiance of military regulations. The issue resulted in a forced-shave order, appellate review and the eventual substitution of a new judge.

As the court-martial began, Hasan was wearing a full beard.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: ‘Fort Hood Shooting Suspect, Maj. Nidal Hasan, to Face Court Martial, Possible Death Penalty’

ABAJournal.com: “Military judge refuses to accept guilty plea from Fort Hood shooting suspect”

ABAJournal.com: “Hasan’s pro se defense at trial over Fort Hood slayings raises ethical issues for standby counsel”

Updated at 1:40 p.m. to include information from subsequent WFAA and Washington Post coverage.

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