August 20 was to be the trial date. Finally. Three years after Nidal Hasan gunned down thirteen people at Fort Hood, he was supposed to be brought before the bar of justice.
But he didn’t shave, so Col. Gregory Gross, the military judge presiding on the case did what he did back in June, the last time Hasan showed up with a beard.
Held him in contempt and fined him $1,000.
Not too much of an economic burden, since Hasan is still receiving his full military pay.
Now the August 20th trial date is off. Indefinitely.
Hasan is appealing Judge Gross’s “shave the beard” order. So, of course, there will be no trial until the appellate process creeps to some conclusion about the damn beard.
Back in November of 2009, Hilary Hylton, a staff writer for Time Magazine wrote an article headlined, “How the Military Will Try Nidal Hasan.”
Ms. Hylton predicted, “Justice is likely to be speedy. The Uniform Code of Military Justice has no provision for bail, and the prosecution is required to bring the case to trial in 120 days.”
She quoted Scott Silliman, a retired military lawyer and head of the Duke University Law School’s Center on Ethics and National Security, saying that the reason the code requires prompt prosecution is to screen the process from undue influence.
“The military is a hierarchical society,” says Silliman, who insists that there must be a way to prevent the brass from interfering with the prosecution. And “brass” includes the Commander in Chief.
Of course, there’s a catch. There always is.
The 120 days can be extended whenever the Judge grants a delay.
Enter Col. Gregory Gross.
Hasan was brought before Judge Gross in June, 2012. Three years after the crime. That was just to find out whether the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty. Of course, he’s charged with a capital offense, and under military law, he isn’t allowed to plead guilty.
So it would seem there wasn’t a lot to talk about in June.
But the defendant showed up with a beard. Against Army regulations.
Judge Gross, being a stern, uncompromising, defender of the Code of Military Justice, gave Hasan two months to shave his face.
And when he came back two months later, still unshaven, the mean old judge postponed his trial altogether.
Giving the defendant’s lawyers time enough to rush to the Military Court of Appeals and ask those higher ups for permission to keep the beard.
I’m sorry folks. I was a trial judge in Detroit some years ago. We had plenty of lawyers capable of jacking the court around interminably to avoid doomsday.
When you get counsel acting that way it’s time to hitch up your drawers and bang the gavel. It was time for Col. Gross to say, “Counsel, your client will be fined one thousand dollars for every day he appears here unshaven. A plea of Not Guilty will be entered on all counts. Now the bailiff will summon the jury panel and lets get started.”
Meanwhile, Time magazine and Hillary Hylton aren’t bothering to talk to Leila Hunt Willingham, whose brother, Jason Dean “J.D.” Hunt was among those killed on November 5, 2009.
"I stopped holding my breath a long time ago as far as expecting to get any closure regarding the trial," says Ms. Willingham.
What else is there to say? The system was supposed to prevent interference from the higher ups.
Is everyone waiting for a signal from the Commander in Chief?
I’d like to hear Governor Romney say that he will order the trial on the day after Inauguration.