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A military officer rejected a defense request Thursday to close an upcoming hearing for the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting suspect after the defense claimed pre-trial publicity would impede a fair trial.
Col. James L. Pohl, the military officer presiding over the case, said the request to close the Oct. 12 hearing was too general and the defense needed to be more specific about why the entire session needed to be closed, according to Chris Haug, chief of media relations for Fort Hood public affairs. Pohl also said victims and families have a right to hear testimony, The New York Times reported.
Maj. Nadal Hasan, 40, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the shootings at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009.
John Galligan, Hasan’s lawyer, said the amount of media coverage will skew Hasan’s Article 32 hearing.
“The defendant’s rights in comparison to the media are paramount,” Galligan said. “If he wants to have his Article 32 hearing, it has to be done in context that will operate against his ability to gain a fair trial.”
Galligan said the media coverage has been enormous, citing a Time magazine cover with “Terrorist?” across Hasan’s face and President Barack Obama's visit to Fort Hood.
“That kind of pre-talk publicity and coverage you don’t find in any of the other cases I’ve come in contact with in my criminal case career,” he said.
Galligan said he’s considering appealing the ruling.
The attorney also filed two other motions during the two hour session: One to exclude autopsy evidence from the hearing, which Pohl denied, and another to delay the hearing one month to develop mitigating evidence, which Pohl will visit at a later date, Haug said.
Galligan said his team just retained an independent psychiatrist and needs time to go over evidence.
“If the purpose of this is to allow discovery, we haven’t been given all the discovery we need,” he said. “If it will only operate to already inflame a community that is already totally opposed to Maj. Hasan. The prejudice in this case is overwhelming.”
The Oct. 12 hearing is expected to last about four weeks, said Haug.