Major Hasan, an American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 others at the Fort Hood base in Killeen, Tex., in November 2009. This year, he told his lawyers that he began growing a beard out of devotion to his Muslim faith, although Army regulations prohibit soldiers from wearing beards. Army prosecutors had argued that his beard was an attempt to prevent witnesses from identifying him at his trial and to align himself with Islamic extremists.
The judge who has overseen the pretrial hearings at Fort Hood, Col. Gregory Gross, is the chief circuit judge at the base. He has held Major Hasan in contempt and fined him for appearing in court with the beard, calling it a disruption. He removed Major Hasan from the courtroom, ordering him to watch several hearings on closed-circuit television from a nearby trailer….
In its decision on Monday, the appeals court wrote that military commanders, not a military judge, were primarily responsible for enforcing grooming standards. Also, the court ruled there was insufficient evidence that Major Hasan’s beard interfered with the proceedings.
“…insufficient evidence that Major Hasan’s beard interfered with the proceedings.” No kidding. Col. Gross cited Hasan for contempt six times. When that didn’t work, he ordered Hasan forcibly shaved. That led to this appeal, and the removal of Col. Gross.
Prosecutors argued that Hasan’s beard could prevent witnesses from identifying him at the trial. Nearly all defendants in criminal trials appear cleaned up, and sometimes clean-shaven–and virtually all of them can be identified despite their new appearance. How difficult do you think it would be to identify this defendant, sitting in the courtroom, even with his beard?
As for whoever the new judge will be: the appellate court warned that if the new judge carries on about this issue, they will hear it on appeal again.
The victims and their families deserve a speedy resolution to this horror, not a spat. So does the military family.
Get on with it.