Military Law

Appeals Court Ousts Beard-Banning Judge in Case of Fort Hood Suspect

The military’s top court has removed the judge who ordered Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan to shave his beard or be forcibly shaven.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces removed Col. Gregory Gross, the chief circuit judge at Fort Hood, from Hasan’s case on Monday, the San Antonio Express-News, the New York Times and the Associated Press report. Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in a shooting spree on the base.

Experts told the News-Express the ruling came as a surprise. “I’m kind of at a loss for words, which is unusual,” said Jeffrey Addicott, who heads the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University.

Gross had held Hasan in contempt for violating Army regulations banning beards, fined him $6,000 and ordered him removed from the courtroom. The appeals court said military commanders, rather than judges, were responsible for enforcing the beard regulations. The court also noted that Gross had accused Hasan of spreading feces on a restroom floor; the substance was later identified as mud, Hasan’s lawyers said.

“In light of these rulings, and the military judge’s accusations regarding the latrine,” the opinion said, “it could reasonably appear to an objective observer that the military judge had allowed the proceedings to become a duel of wills.”

The News-Express cites a motion by Hasan’s lawyers explaining the reason for the beard. Hasan “is a practicing Muslim and has recently had a premonition that his death is imminent. He does not wish to die without a beard, as he believes not having a beard is a sin,” the motion says.

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