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Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, shown in this courtroom sketch by Brigitte Woosley, testified Aug. 6, 2013 in the court-martial of Maj. Nadal Hasan. Hasan is charged with 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 32 specifications of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5, 2009 mass shooting at a Fort Hood clinic.

Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, shown in this courtroom sketch by Brigitte Woosley, testified Aug. 6, 2013 in the court-martial of Maj. Nadal Hasan. Hasan is charged with 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 32 specifications of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5, 2009 mass shooting at a Fort Hood clinic. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

FORT HOOD, Texas — The judge in the trial against Maj. Nidal Hasan on Thursday denied a request by Hasan’s standby defense counsel to be relieved of all duties because they believe Hasan is seeking the death penalty, which they find “morally repugnant.”

“This is simply a matter of standby counsel disagreeing” with the way Hasan has chosen to defend himself, Osborn said. “Maj. Hasan determines his strategy, not standby counsel,” said the judge, Col. Tara Osborn.

Hasan is defending himself in the trial. He stands charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the massacre at a Fort Hood clinic on Nov. 5, 2009. He could receive the death penalty if convicted.

Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, the head of the standby counsel team, told Osborn that her order to assist Hasan is “forcing us to violate our professional ethics.”

Osborn told Poppe that her order relieves Poppe of professional ethics obligations.

Col. Michael Mulligan, lead prosecutor in the case, said Hasan really only has two options for defending himself: “I didn’t do it, or I did it with an excuse.”

Hasan is employing “a tried and true” strategy by following the latter, Mulligan said. “I’m really perplexed how it’s caused such a moral dilemma.”

After Osborn denied the motion, several witnesses took the stand, describing a horrifying and chaotic scene inside the Soldier Readiness Processing center medical building that November afternoon.

Staff Sgt. Michael Davis said he first thought the noise he heard was some kind of drill, until he smelled gunpowder.

“I heard a young lady screaming, ‘My baby! My baby! My baby!’ ” he testified.

Davis said that when he moved through a waiting area where many of the victims had been sitting when the shooting began, “there were a lot of bodies on the ground, the chairs were overturned, a lot of blood on the floor.”

“It smelled like gunpowder, feces, blood. Pretty … pretty bad,” he said.

Davis was shot in the back but escaped, ran to a truck and jumped in the back, he said. He slapped on the truck’s window and told the driver he was shot and to please take him to the on-base hospital.

Sgt. Alan Carroll recounted going to the clinic with three of his friends that day – Pfc. Michael Pearson, Spc. Frederick Greene and Pfc. Aaron Nemelka. The four had checked in at the clinic that morning, but were told to come back in the afternoon.

The men were sitting together in the waiting area when the shooter stood up and shouted “Allahu Akbar” – God is greatest, in Arabic – then opened fire, Carroll said.

Carroll was shot four times – in the left shoulder, in the back, in the left thigh and the right bicep. Pearson, Greene and Nemelka died.

hlad.jennifer@stripes.com Twitter: @jhlad


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