FORT HOOD, Texas — The Army psychiatrist charged with gunning down 13 people during the 2009 rampage at Fort Hood is scheduled to go on trial this month after a military judge denied his request Thursday for another delay.
Maj. Nidal Hasan's attorneys requested the trial be delayed from late May until Sept. 1, saying military jurors might be influenced by recent national media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings that compared the suspects, two Muslim brothers, to Hasan, who is an American-born Muslim.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, refused. Osborn also reconsidered and again denied Hasan's request to plead guilty in connection with the November 2009 attack on the Texas Army post that also wounded nearly three dozen people.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder, charges that carry the death penalty. Army rules prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea to charges that could result in a death sentence, and Osborn on Thursday refused to remove the death penalty as a punishment option.
Osborn also denied his request to plead guilty to lesser murder charges. However, she said that if Hasan is convicted, she would tell jurors before the sentencing phase that he wanted to plead guilty to premeditated murder and to the 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder he also faces.
Even if the judge had allowed the guilty pleas to lesser murder charges, the death-penalty trial still would have proceeded, unlike in civilian court.
The judge set the next hearing for May 29, when Hasan is to enter a plea. Osborn said jury selection would not begin until all pretrial issues had been resolved, which would be May 30 at the earliest.
And in an unusual move, the judge directly asked questions to Hasan, who rarely speaks in court. Hasan, sitting in his wheelchair at the defense table, softly answered, "Yes, ma'am," each time Osborn asked if he wanted to plead guilty. His attorneys had discussed Hasan's desire to plead guilty during previous hearings, though Thursday was the first time he said so in court.
Hasan is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police the day of the rampage.
Hasan faces the death penalty or life in military prison without parole if convicted.