Judge to rule on issue holding up Fort Hood trial

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — A military judge was on Friday expected to address the latest snag holding up the trial of an Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly Fort Hood shooting rampage: his former defense attorneys’ objections to helping him as he represents himself in court.

Maj. Nidal Hasan’s three ex-attorneys have been ordered to be on standby during his court-martial. The lawyers say complying with the judge’s order to give their full assistance would require them to act unethically. They say it’s not their role to give Hasan legal advice about his defense strategy, in which he has said he’ll argue that he shot U.S. troops on the Texas Army post to protect Taliban leaders in Afghanistan.

The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, is expected to rule on the attorneys’ sealed motions explaining their objections. Earlier this week, former lead defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris Poppe said he might withdraw from the case; the judge has already rejected another attorney’s request to withdraw. Two of the three attorneys have worked on Hasan’s case for more than three years.

Hasan, an American-born Muslim, faces the death penalty or life without parole if convicted in the 2009 rampage that left 13 dead and nearly three dozen wounded.

It’s unclear if the judge will rule Friday on whether to allow Hasan’s “defense of others” strategy — which would require him to show that the shootings were necessary to prevent the immediate harm or death of others. Also pending is Hasan’s request for a three-month trial delay.

Jury selection was set to begin two weeks ago, then was tentatively moved to last week, but since has been on hold as various matters remain unresolved.

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