Trials & Litigation

Hasan's Beard Is Again a Topic as New Military Judge Takes Bench in Fort Hood Massacre Case

All eyes were on the new military judge in charge of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s capital murder case on Tuesday as the former Army psychiatrist was wheeled into a court-martial hearing.

His controversial beard, which helped persuade a military appeals court to replace the former judge overseeing the Fort Hood massacre case who had ordered Hasan forcibly shaved, was bigger than ever, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

“I see that you are wearing a beard against Army uniform regulations,” Col. Tara Abbey Osborn said to Hasan. “Is that a voluntary choice?”

When the defendant said that it was, Osburn told him “I’m not going to hold that against you, but some people on the panel may hold that against you.”

Accused of slaying 13 and injuring 32 others in a shooting rampage three years ago that left the defendant himself paralyzed and in a wheelchair, Hasan has contended that he grew his beard as an expression of his Islamic beliefs, as permitted under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In removing Col. Gregory Gross from the case, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said his focus on the defendant’s beard, which was primarily an issue for his command to address, created an appearance of bias and had taken up a lot of court time, the Express-News article notes. The appellate court did not determine whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was applicable to Hasan, and said “such issues should be addressed and litigated anew” if the next military judge thinks it is necessary to address the beard issue.

Earlier coverage: “Army Judge Orders Forced Shave for Fort Hood Massacre Suspect; Appeal Likely to Delay Military Trial” “Appeals Court Ousts Beard-Banning Judge in Case of Fort Hood Suspect”

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