FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - Wearing his Army uniform and sitting solemnly in a wheelchair, the psychiatrist accused of gunning down 13 people at Fort Hood made his first court room appearance Tuesday where his attorneys won a delay in his case.
Maj. Nidal Hasan did not speak much at the hearing, mostly answering questions about the proceedings with a soft: "yes sir." His attorneys sought a delay in his Article 32 hearing because they needed more time to review reams of documents they recently received and they still need other key documents like the FBI ballistics report on the Nov. 5 shooting.
The Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding in which a judge hears witness testimony to determine whether the case should go to trial, is set for Oct. 4. Before Tuesday's one-hour hearing, Hasan was flanked by military police as he rolled his wheelchair into the courtroom and up to the defense table.
Hasan, who was paralyzed after being shot by military police the day of the shootings, answered "yes, sir" or "I understand, sir" when asked if he understood his rights, if he had read the charges against him and if he knew his right to a speedy trial. He is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the worst shooting on a U.S. military post.
Col. Michael Mulligan, the lead prosecutor, objected to the delay and said prosecutors would be ready to proceed in July. Col. James L. Pohl, a military judge who is acting as the investigating officer in the Fort Hood shooting case, said that during the Article 32 hearing, he planned to call the 32 injured victims as witnesses.
He also said authorities had not decided whether to seek the death penalty. If convicted, Hasan could be sentenced to death only if the military jurors determine there is an aggravating factor, according to military law.
Last month, prosecutors sent a notice to defense attorney John Galligan listing one aggravating factor in the case: that more than one person was killed in the same incident. Experts have said prosecutors would not send such a notice unless they planned to seek the death penalty.
While Tuesday's hearing was the second for Hasan, it is the first time he's appeared in a Fort Hood courtroom. His initial hearing - two weeks after the shootings - was held in his hospital room at San Antonio's Brooke Army Medical Center. Hasan was treated at the San Antonio facility until his April transfer to the Bell County Jail, which houses military suspects for nearby Fort Hood. The military justice system does not have bail for defendants.