Maj. Nidal Hasan (Jail photo)
FORT HOOD (August 15, 2012)—A military appeals court ordered a temporary halt Wednesday to proceedings against accused Fort Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan so it can consider his objections to being forcibly shaved.
The order from the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces came shortly after a pretrial hearing got underway on post during which Hasan was expected to enter a plea.
The court is the military’s highest appellate court.
Jury selection was to have started Monday for Hasan's court-martial, but the order Wednesday could mean another delay.
Military judge Col. Gregory Gross earlier ordered Hasan to shave off his beard before the start of the court-martial or said he would have it shaved off forcibly.
Hasan, who contends he grew the beard for religious reasons, refused to shave and appealed the judge’s order.
Since then he has been sequestered in a trailer equipped with a closed circuit TV system during pretrial hearings and held in contempt and fined $1,000 each time he's shown up unshaven.
According to a defense motion, Hasan indicated he wanted to plead guilty Wednesday for religious reasons, but Gross, said he could not accept a guilty plea to the 13 charges of premeditated murder.
Military law doesn't allow guilty pleas to charges that carry the death penalty as the maximum sentence.
Gross said while Hasan can plead guilty, the plea would not be accepted and he would enter a not guilty plea for the Army psychiatrist who's charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5, 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center.