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Military panel, Hasan representing himself makes for rare trial

Aug. 11, 2013 at 10:39 AM   |   Comments

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- The trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 soldiers in 2009 in Fort Hood, Texas, could be a rarity for the military panel system, experts said.

Hasan, who is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, is representing himself, a rarity for a case that could bring the death sentence, and even more rare for a military panel, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

A military panel is unlike the average civilian jury in that there can be more than 12 members -- Hasan's panel includes 13 people -- and they are brought in from all over the country, the Times said.

"These people are going to have been solicited from all over the country to avoid them having any ties to Fort Hood in an effort to ensure their impartiality," said Lisa Marie Windsor, a private attorney and former Army lawyer based at Fort Hood.

The jury consists of officers all at or above Hasan's ranking and they're even seated according to that hierarchy.

Jury members can ask questions during and after the trial, sometimes calling for witnesses to return to the stand to give further details, the Times said.

Most notably, there cannot be a hung panel. It takes a two-thirds majority to convict Hasan and panel members vote with an anonymous ballot to prevent lower-ranking officers from feeling the need to vote along with their superiors.

"That's the big difference between the military and civilian jury system -- these people are brought up through an environment where you do what your superior tells you to do. But you get into that jury room and you're all equal, in theory anyway," Windsor said.

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