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Accused Fort Hood shooter asks to fire lawyers, represent self

Nidal Hasan, charged with killing 13 people and wounding 31 in a November 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, is pictured in an undated
Nidal Hasan, charged with killing 13 people and wounding 31 in a November 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, is pictured in an undated

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Accused Fort Hood shooting spree gunman Major Nidal Hasan asked a U.S. military judge on Wednesday for permission to fire his court-appointed lawyers and represent himself at his court martial, a Fort Hood spokesman said.

The judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, will consider Hasan's request at a hearing next week. Jury selection, which had been scheduled to begin next week, has been pushed back to June 5, the spokesman said.

Hasan, 42, has been charged with killing 13 people and wounding 32 others when he opened fire on a group of soldiers at Fort Hood who were preparing to deploy to Iraq in November 2009. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted on the charges.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is paralyzed from the chest down from gunshots fired by two civilian Fort Hood police officers who ended what was the worst shooting at a U.S. military installation.

He has twice asked that the death penalty be removed so he could plead guilty to the shootings, a request Osborn has refused. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Hasan cannot plead guilty to a capital crime.

Osborn has been trying to get the trial schedule on track after extensive delays while the military justice system debated whether Hasan, who is Muslim, should be required to shave his beard to comply with military rules. Osborn has put that issue aside.

Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Addicott, a former legal adviser to the Army Special Forces and now a law professor at St. Mary's University in Austin, Texas, said the request was not surprising given that Hasan previously fired civilian lawyers.

Hasan has the right to represent himself, but Osborn can, and probably will, insist that his military attorney, Lieutenant Colonel Kris Poppe remain at the defense table to provide legal advice.

"If he doesn't want to listen to his lawyer, he doesn't have to listen to his lawyer," Addicott said. "But he will not be as competent in raising any type of defense that would have any positive effect on the outcome of his trial."

Fort Hood is a 340-square-mile (880-square-km) Army post located about 60 miles north of Austin.

(Editing by David Bailey and Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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