The lawyer for a man accused in the mass shooting at a Texas military base last Thursday that left 13 dead said the attention given to the incident will make it difficult for his client to get a fair trial in a military court.
Retired Col. John P. Galligan met with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio on Monday and said he’s assured Hasan that all of his rights as a defendant in the military justice system will be respected.
Hasan, a psychiatrist at the Fort Hood army base, is the only suspect in the shooting rampage on Nov. 5, in which an individual opened fire in a room crowded with hundreds of soldiers, killing 13 and injuring 29.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are expected to arrive on Tuesday to attend a memorial service. Obama plans to meet with the families of the 12 soldiers and one civilian killed.
Lt. General Robert Cone said at least 3,000 people are expected at the event, which begins at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Galligan said Tuesday he thought it would be difficult for Hasan to get a fair trial at Fort Hood, "given the national media attention that has been focused" on the case.
Charges expected in military court
Hasan was shot four times — including at least once in the torso — by two civilian officers, and remains in hospital.
Galligan, who was hired by Hasan’s family, and Maj. Christopher E. Martin, Fort Hood’s senior defence attorney, both met with Hasan after he refused questioning from investigators and requested a lawyer on Monday.
Hasan has yet to be formally charged, but officials said he would be tried in a military court, not a civilian one.
The most serious charge in military court is premeditated murder, which carries the death penalty. The U.S. military justice system has not executed anyone since 1961, though five servicemen are currently on death row.
Connection to radical imam
Investigators, meanwhile, are reviewing communications between Hasan and a radical imam overseas.
U.S. officials said Monday Hasan communicated 10 to 20 times with Anwar al-Awlaki, a former imam at the Falls Church, Va., mosque where Hasan and his family occasionally worshipped.
Al-Awlaki, who was released from a Yemeni jail last year, runs a website that denounces U.S. policies and praised Hasan’s alleged actions as heroic.
The FBI has monitored communications with al-Awlaki because of his alleged links to three of the Sept. 11 hijackers, who worshipped at two of his mosques.
The FBI monitored emails exchanged between Hasan and al-Awlaki, but investigators said they had no evidence Hasan had help or outside orders in the shootings.
A law enforcement official told the Associated Press the communications primarily consisted of Hasan posing questions to the imam as a spiritual leader and adviser, and the imam responded to at least some of the queries.
Investigators said the content of Hasan’s emails was "consistent with the subject matter of his research" as someone who worked with post-traumatic stress disorder cases as a result of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With files from The Associated Press