Beard, other issues remain for new Fort Hood judge

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 5, 2012 at 4:48 pm •  Published: December 5, 2012
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DALLAS (AP) — The new judge taking over the Fort Hood shooting case will likely confront many of the questions that faced her predecessor, including one that helped lead to his removal: Should the suspect be allowed to keep his beard in court?

The shooting rampage that left 13 dead and more than two dozen wounded happened more than three years ago, but the case has had numerous delays, including over the beard issue. The previous judge, Col. Gregory Gross, was ousted Monday by the military appeals court, which raised questions about whether Gross appeared impartial.

The court's ruling noted what appeared to be a "duel of wills" between the judge and Maj. Nidal Hasan over the beard and other issues.

Hasan has previously indicated he would like to plead guilty, but he can't because the charges he faces carry a possible death sentence. A guilty plea to lesser charges that don't carry a possible death sentence would be permissible, but prosecutors would have to accept such an arrangement.

Gross' replacement on the case, Col. Tara Osborn, is likely to be asked to re-examine any number of Gross' rulings, including the beard issue.

"If I was the defense attorney, I would say, 'Guess what, I'm going to go back and re-litigate every issue,'" said Victor Hansen, a former Judge Advocate General's Corps officer who teaches at the New England School of Law.

Hasan began growing his beard while in custody. He says it's a requirement of his Muslim faith, but facial hair violates Army regulations. Gross cited him six times for contempt of court and ordered him out of the courtroom before ordering that Hasan be forcibly shaved if he did not remove the beard himself before trial.

Hasan appealed, leading to the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to remove Gross from the case. The court signaled that local command, not Gross, was responsible for enforcing grooming standards.

Hansen said he expected Osborn would "be very leery to get stuck in this rat-hole again" and is unlikely to try to order Hasan shaved.