[Guest post by DRJ]
The Army is proceeding with a mental status hearing for Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, and Hasan’s defense attorney may assert an insanity defense:
“Defense attorneys for accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan are racing to collect evidence that could show their client is insane before a psychiatric evaluation is completed.
The Army on Wednesday evening told Maj. Hasan’s defense lawyers that it had convened a so-called sanity board to evaluate whether Maj. Hasan is fit to stand trial. The three-person panel is expected to make a recommendation by the end of February, a timeline that has defense attorneys frustrated.”
The Army has reportedly appointed a prosecutor with experience rebutting an insanity defense:
“Defense attorneys faced a similar challenge in the case of Hasan Akbar, an Army sergeant accused of killing two U.S. soldiers in a grenade attack in the early days of the Iraq war. Sgt. Akbar’s lawyers argued he had a history of depression and was too mentally ill to be capable of premeditation.
In 2005, an Army jury found Sgt. Akbar guilty and sentenced him to death. The defense is appealing the verdict. Col. Michael Mulligan, the officer who prosecuted Sgt. Akbar, recently joined the team that will prosecute Maj. Hasan.”
The article speculates the defense will point out Hasan acted oddly before the shooting, including that “he lived in a cramped one-bedroom apartment, a place far smaller than he could have afforded on his salary” and that “he gave away many of his belongings” just prior to the shootings. However, it seems to me this conduct will further open the door to testimony that Hasan’s motive was jihad. While it’s probably inevitable that this motive will be raised at trial, I’m not sure the defense wants to help prove it in a preliminary hearing.