- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FORT HOOD, Texas | A military hearing to determine whether an Army psychiatrist should go to trial for last year’s deadly Fort Hood shootings was unexpectedly stalled Tuesday, without testimony from any of the dozens of survivors, after defense attorneys requested a monthlong delay.

Col. James L. Pohl, a military judge acting as the investigating officer in the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, said he would rule Wednesday on the defense request to start the Article 32 hearing Nov. 8.

Lt. Col. Kris Poppe said the delay was necessary because of certain issues but did not elaborate. He said attorneys needed a day to prepare the request in writing, and Col. Pohl adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.

“We’re not operating on a time limit or clock,” Col. Pohl said. “We’ve got to protect everybody’s rights.”

Maj. Hasan, 40, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 attack, the worst mass shooting at an American military base. The Article 32 hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial.

The start of Tuesday’s proceeding was stalled for nearly 3 hours because of what Col. Pohl described as scheduling issues. Later, Col. Michael Mulligan, the lead prosecutor, told Col. Pohl that the defense has had months to prepare and he opposes any further delays.

The start of the proceeding was stalled for more than 2½ hours because of what Col. Pohl described as scheduling issues.

Tuesday was the third time Maj. Hasan appeared in a military courtroom for a hearing, and he did not speak as he sat in his wheelchair wearing his Army combat uniform. He pulled a knit cap over his ears and glanced around the room a couple of times, but otherwise looked at Col. Pohl or his attorneys.

He was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot by Fort Hood police officers on Nov. 5, and since then he has been in custody. First he was in a San Antonio hospital and since April has been jailed in Bell County, which houses military suspects for nearby Fort Hood. The military justice system does not offer bail.

A few relatives of the victims who were in court Tuesday showed no reaction and appeared not to look in Maj. Hasan’s direction.

At least one soldier wounded in the attack was seen in a courthouse room. Prosecutors planned to start calling witnesses Tuesday in the hearing expected to last at least three weeks.

Shortly after the hearing began, Col. Poppe renewed a request that the hearing be closed to the public. Col. Pohl denied the request as he had done last month, after defense attorneys said an open hearing would jeopardize Maj. Hasan’s right to a fair trial because nearly three dozen injured victims were to testify.

After the hearing John Galligan, Maj. Hasan’s lead defense attorney, declined to say why the defense team asked for the delay or explain the issues mentioned court.

“Nothing can be said,” he said. “We have work to do.”

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