Nation

Fort Hood shooting suspect trial set

FORT HOOD, Texas — The Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage is to go on trial in three months, after several delays in the case, including an unexpected snag over his beard.

A military judge Thursday set Major Nidal Hasan’s court-martial for May 29 at the Texas Army post. After about four weeks of jury selection, testimony is to begin July 1.

The judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, said she expects testimony to last up to three months.

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Hasan, 42, faces the death penalty or life without parole if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the worst mass shooting on a US military installation.

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Hasan’s trial initially was set for last March, then delayed to June and then to August after defense lawyers said they needed more time to prepare. Less than a week before it was to start, the trial unexpectedly was put on hold when Hasan appealed an order by then-judge Colonel Gregory Gross that his beard would be forcibly shaved unless he removed it before trial.

Although facial hair violates Army rules, Hasan started growing a beard last summer, saying it was required by his Muslim faith.

Hasan appealed again in September after Gross issued a definitive, written order for the forced shaving. Proceedings resumed in December after the appeals court ousted Gross from the case and threw out his order.

Osborn won’t order Hasan to shave. If he still has a beard at trial, jurors probably will be told not to consider his appearance when deciding on a verdict.

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Osborn did not rule Thursday on defense requests to select jurors from another military branch instead of the Army or to move the trial away from Fort Hood.