Skip to main content

Appeals court halts Hasan case over beard

From Jennifer Rizzo, CNN
updated 6:40 PM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
Maj. Nidal Hasan is an Army psychiatrist accused of a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009.
Maj. Nidal Hasan is an Army psychiatrist accused of a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009.
  • The accused Fort Hood gunman had been scheduled to go on trial Monday
  • He has refused to shave a beard that violates Army regulations
  • The judge in his trial has threatened to have him forcibly shaved
  • Hasan could be sentenced to death if convicted of the 2009 killings

(CNN) -- A military appeals court halted the murder case against Maj. Nidal Hasan on Wednesday over a judge's threat to shave the beard the Army psychiatrist grew while awaiting trial in the 2009 Fort Hood killings.

Hasan's court-martial had been scheduled to start Monday at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas, where he is accused of killing 13 people and wounding another 32. The presiding judge, Col. Gregory Gross, had threatened to have him forcibly shaved unless he got rid of the beard, which is against Army regulations.

Wednesday's order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces now means the trial date is unknown. Gross has until August 22 to respond to the appeals court.

Hasan had been expected to enter a plea during a Wednesday hearing, but the proceedings were halted by the appellate court, . Hasan has previously expressed interest in pleading guilty, but military regulations bar a judge from accepting a guilty plea in a capital case.

Fort Hood suspect may be 'forcibly shaved' before trial

Hasan is accused of opening fire at the post's processing center, where soldiers were preparing to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq, in November 2009. The stay came the same day he was expected to enter a plea to the charges against him.

The beard issue first surfaced in June, when Hasan -- who remains in the Army while awaiting trial -- appeared at a June hearing with the facial hair. Gross postponed that hearing, then found Hasan in contempt of court at a July hearing, fined him $1,000 and warned him he would be shaved by force unless he got rid of it.

Hasan faces a possible death sentence if convicted. He was left paralyzed from the waist down in the shooting, when police officers exchanged fire with him.

His lawyers had been seeking a delay of the case until December, but Gross had refused and set Monday as the trial date.

Hasan, a U.S.-born citizen of Palestinian descent, was a licensed psychiatrist who joined the Army in 1997. He had been scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan before the killings, but had been telling his family since 2001 that he wanted to get out of the military.

He is a Muslim who had told his family he had been taunted after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Investigations that followed the killings found that he had been communicating via e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American radical cleric killed by a U.S. drone attack in 2011.

An FBI report in July found that a Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Diego that was investigating al-Awlaki passed two of the messages on to another task force in the Washington, D.C., area, where Hasan was living at the time. The report found those e-mails should have been passed to the Pentagon -- but the FBI saw no evidence of terrorist activities in his case, and believed the information in the e-mails was too sensitive to share because visiting extremist websites is not grounds for taking action.

FBI official says Hasan should have been interviewed over e-mails

Fort Hood shooting report faults FBI handling of Nidal Hasan's e-mails

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.