Maj. Nidal Hasan (Jail photo)
FORT HOOD (December 4, 2012)—U.S. Army Col. Tara Osborn was named Tuesday to preside over the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who’s awaiting court-martial in the November 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center that left 13 dead and two-dozen injured.
Osborn replaces Col Gregory Gross, whom the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ousted on Monday.
The court Monday also tossed Gross’ order that Hasan must shave or would be shaved forcibly before the court-martial begins.
The court ruled Monday that the command, not the judge, is responsible for enforcing grooming standards and said Gross didn't appear to be impartial in his handling of the case.
“Thus, taken together, the, decision to remove Appellant from the courtroom, the contempt citations, and the decision to order Appellant’s forcible shaving in the absence of any command action to do the same, could lead an objective observer to conclude that the military judge was not impartial towards Appellant,” the ruling said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces is the highest-level appellate court for the U.S. military.
Army spokesman Maj. S. Justin Platt said Tuesday he didn't know when Osborn will arrive at Fort Hood and it’s unclear when hearings in the case will resume.
Hasan’s court-martial has been on hold for months because of the battle over the Army psychiatrist’s beard.
The decision Monday came in Hasan’s appeal of a ruling in October by the U.S. Army Court of Appeals that Hasan has no right to wear a beard in uniform during his court-martial.
The Army Court of Appeals upheld Gross’ finding that Hasan failed to prove the beard is an expression of a sincerely held religious belief and said even if the beard were such an expression, “compelling government interests” also justified Gross’ order that Hasan meet Army grooming standards.
The court also upheld previous contempt findings against Hasan in which he was fined $1,000 six times for appearing in court out of uniform because of his beard.
The defense filed appeals seeking a ruling on whether the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act allowed Hasan to keep the beard.
The first sought to overturn contempt findings against Hasan in previous hearings and to bar any future contempt proceedings over the beard.
The second sought a ruling on whether the act allows Hasan to have a beard while in military uniform during his court-martial.