The Norman Transcript

August 20, 2013

Judge bars most motive evidence in Fort Hood trial

By Michael Graczyk and Paul J. Weber
The Associated Press

FORT HOOD, Texas — A military judge blocked several key pieces of evidence Monday that prosecutors said would explain the mindset of the soldier accused in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, including his belief that he had a “jihad duty” to carry out the attack.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to approve several witnesses and various evidence to support what they allege motivated Maj. Nidal Hasan to carry out the attack, which killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at the Texas military base.

But the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, blocked nearly all of it.

Osborn barred any reference Hasan Akbar, a Muslim soldier sentenced to death for attacking fellow soldiers in Kuwait during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Prosecutors wanted to suggest that Hasan, an American-born Muslim, carried out a “copycat” attack.

But the judge said introducing such material would “only open the door to a mini-trial” of Akbar and result in a “confusion of issues, unfair prejudice, waste of time and undue delay.”

The judge said prosecutors also couldn’t introduce three emails, ruling that the needed redactions would make them irrelevant. The contents of the emails weren’t disclosed, but the FBI has said Hasan sent numerous emails starting in December 2008 to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S.-born Islamic cleric killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

However, the judge will allow evidence about Internet searches on Hasan’s computer around the time of the attack and websites that Hasan had listed as “favorites.”

Military prosecutors have said they would show that Hasan felt he had a “jihad duty,” referring to a Muslim term for a religious war or struggle. Prosecutors have called almost 80 witnesses so far, but they weren’t expected to begin tackling his motive until this week.

Hasan — who is acting as his own attorney but has mostly sat in silence — could also soon shed light on such questions, if prosecutors rest their case as expected this week. If Monday were any indication, he may be ready to talk.

In a rare move, Hasan spoke up on Monday, first to challenge the government’s definition of “jihad” and, for the first time since the day testimony began, questioned a witness.