Hasan Appeal Highlights Conflict Between Constitution and Code of Military Justice

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Hasan Appeal Highlights Conflict Between Constitution and Code of Military Justice

Major Nidal Hasan, the man accused of the Ft. Hood shooting, has appealed a ruling demanding that he shave his beard before going to trial. Hasan asserts that the beard is a constitutionally protected religious practice.

The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals heard arguments October 11 regarding the future of accused Ft. Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan’s beard. As we reported in August, Hasan has grown a beard while incarcerated, awaiting trial on the charges that he attempted to murder 32 people during an armed rampage at a deployment processing center at Ft. Hood, Texas.

Hasan thinks pleading guilty and growing a beard will keep him out of hell. At the hearing held on August 15, however, the military officer presiding over the court martial of the one-time U.S. Army psychiatrist rejected Hasan’s guilty plea and told him that he would order the devout Muslim to be forcibly shaved before the trial begins. This decision is the basis for the appeal.

“He does not wish to die without a beard as he believes not having a beard is a sin,” the Associated Press reports, quoting from the appeal filed by Hasan’s defense counsel with the appellate court clerk.

Judge Goss ruled that the beard is a distraction and pointed out that it is a violation of Army regulations. Goss will not allow Hasan to enter the courtroom until he complies with the regulation and has fined him $1,000 for failing to comply with the order. The Associated Press reports that Goss wants Hasan in the courtroom so that he cannot use his absence from the proceedings as a basis for a subsequent appeal should he be found guilty.

Army prosecutors claim that Hasan’s reason for growing the beard was less spiritual and more pragmatic. They insist that Hasan wants to make it hard for witnesses to identify him.

In December 2009, Army prosecutors charged Hasan with 32 counts of attempted murder in connection with the victims wounded in his armed rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas, on November 5. Among those injured by Hasan were the two civilian police officers who eventually fired on Hasan and brought him down, ending the massacre. These lesser charges are in addition to the 13 counts of murder with which the former army psychiatrist and alleged jihadist was charged. 

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Photo of Major Nidal Hasan: AP Images

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