FORT HOOD (January 30, 2013)—Military judge Col. Tara Osborn ruled Wednesday that accused Fort Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan will still face a possible death sentence if he’s convicted in the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation.
During a hearing Wednesday on post, Osborn denied Hasan's request to remove the death penalty as a punishment option.
The defense withdrew a request that Hasan be allowed to plead guilty to 13 counts of premeditated murder in the 2009 attack on the Texas Army post, but still has a notice of intent to plead guilty pending that Osborn said she'll address in a future hearing.
The issue may be moot because Army rules prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea in a death penalty case.
Hasan also is charged with 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center that left 13 dead and two-dozen injured.
Also Wednesday, Osborn upheld earlier rulings refusing defense motions seeking a media analysis expert and an expert to interact with crime victims at government expense.
Osborn set a second hearing on Feb. 27, during which she’ll consider issues including whether the court-martial should be moved.
If convicted he faces either execution or life in prison without parole.
In early December Osborn was named to preside over the case, replacing Col Gregory Gross, whom the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ousted as it tossed out Gross’ order that Hasan must shave or would be shaved forcibly before the court-martial begins.
The court ruled 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.