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Military Court Ousts Hasan Judge and Order to Shave

by Bruce Gietzen

Fort Hood - An Armed Forces Court of Appeals agreed with Ft. Hood gunman Nidal Hasan and ousted the judge in his capital murder trial Monday.

Citing the integrity of the judicial process, that court also said Judge Colonel Gregory Gross cannot have Hasan forcibly shaved.

The court said the judge was ousted not for being biased, but because there was an appearance he could be.

The court said, "A reasonable person, knowing all the  relevant facts, would harbor doubts about the judge's impartiality". 

Tahoe facts included the judge's decisions in the case to remove Hasan from the courtroom for having a beard, six contempt citations, and the order to forcibly shave him without any command action. 

The military appeals panel also said the command, not the court at Ft. Hood, has the primary responsibility for the enforcement of grooming standards.

"Although the military judge stated that (Hasan's) beard was a disruption, there was insufficient evidence on this record to demonstrate that beard materially interfered with the proceedings," the ruling stated. 

With surprising candor, the high court also said it "could reasonably appear the military judge had allowed the proceedings to become a duel of wills between himself and Appelent rather than an adjudication of the serious offenses with which Appellant is charged".

Consequently, the court ordered Colonel Gross removed from the case on the appearance of bias.  His order to forcibly shave Hasan is vacated, as are the six contempt citations, all in order to "promote public confidence in the integrity of the judicial process".

A new judge will be appointed, and that could delay this trial - which was supposed to begin in August - even further. 

Major Nidal Hasan is accused of killing 13 people, and wounding 32 others in an attack on post Nov. 5, 2009.  He claims religious rights should allow him to grow a beard, but the Army prevents having facial hair in court.

The appeals court also said it did not rule on if and how the Religious Freedom Restoration Act might apply to Hasan's beard, and litigation on that issue should start over. 


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