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2012: Year in review

Fort Hood case drags on: Hasan refuses to shave

The Army psychiatrist accused of the 2009 Fort Hood massacre was set to face court-martial in 2012, but one issue delayed his trial repeatedly: his beard.

The dispute over Maj. Nidal Hasan’s facial hair, which violates Army rules, led to the ouster of the judge assigned to his case.

Hasan was back in court Dec. 18, when his new judge, Col. Tara Osborn, asked defense attorneys to draw up instructions to potential jurors regarding the beard, likely asking jurors not to hold Hasan’s appearance against him in determining a verdict.

Hasan faces a possible death sentence for the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting spree at the Texas base, in which 13 died and 32 were wounded.

Hasan, an American-born Muslim who spent his career in the Army clean-shaven, grew the beard in the spring for what he says are religious reasons. He was denied an exemption to grooming regulations. He showed up to court with the bushy beard, garnering contempt charges from the judge, who, after months of testy exchanges with Hasan’s lawyers, ordered him forcibly shaved.

Hasan’s lawyers argued that the ruling violated his religious rights and appealed. Hasan lost in the first court of appeals in October, but appealed again to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

In December, the court found that the judge had acted inappropriately in ordering Hasan to shave, saying that was a decision for Hasan’s command. Without ruling on whether Hasan should be allowed to keep the beard, they instead dismissed the judge, Col. Gregory Gross, for the appearance of bias.

Osborn has not ruled to allow Hasan to wear the beard on grounds that his facial hair is protected by religious freedom laws, but her exchange indicated she may grant it, military law expert Geoffrey Corn, a professor at South Texas College of Law, told the (Austin, Texas) American-Statesman.

mccloskeym@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @MegMcCloskey

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