FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The military's highest court ousted the judge in the Fort Hood shooting case Monday and threw out his order to have the suspect's beard forcibly shaved before his court-martial.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Col. Gregory Gross didn't appear impartial while presiding over the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who faces the death penalty if convicted in the 2009 shootings on the Texas Army post that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others.
But the court said it was not ruling on whether the judge's order violated Hasan's religious rights. Hasan has argued that his beard is a requirement of his Muslim faith, although facial hair violates Army regulations.
"Should the next military judge find it necessary to address (Hasan's) beard, such issues should be addressed and litigated anew," judges wrote in the ruling.
Hasan appealed after Gross ordered that he must be clean-shaven or be forcibly shaved before his court-martial, a military trial.
The court-martial had been set to begin three months ago but has been on hold pending the appeals.
In a statement issued Monday night, Fort Hood officials said proceedings in the case will resume after a new judge is appointed by the Army's highest legal branch. That indicates Army prosecutors will not appeal this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
An Army appeals court had upheld the shaving requirement in October. But on Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said the command, not the judge, was responsible for enforcing grooming standards. The ruling said that was one example of how Gross did not appear impartial in the case.
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