Friday, December 7, 2012

Military ousts judge in court martial

Apparently Col. Gregory Gross went too far for the Army when he ordered that Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing of 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, be forcibly shaved prior to his court martial.

Maj. Hasan began growing a beard as an expression of his Muslim faith after he was incarcerated pending his court martial back in 2009. Military prosecutors asked that the court order Maj. Hasan to shave his beard prior to trial. Col. Gross did so.

When Maj. Hasan refused to shave his beard, prosecutors asked the court to order him forcibly shaved if he wouldn't agree to do it himself. The order came over Maj. Hasan's objection that the order violated his right to practice the religion of his choice.

The court martial was placed on hold when Maj. Hasan appealed the ruling. The military's highest court heard the appeal and ordered that Col. Gross be replaced by Col. Tara Osborn
"This ruling will have a chilling effect on the future judge because he or she ... will not pursue this beard issue any longer, and the appeals court still hasn't answered the key question of whether Hasan has to comply with military regulations and shave like every other military officer," said Jeff Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio. The retired military attorney is not involved in Hasan's case. "But on the flip side, the jury is going to see him in a full beard and may think he is motivated by radical Islamic beliefs. That's what prosecutors and the judge (Gross) were trying to prevent."
I guess it should come as no surprise that Mr. Addicott didn't like the decision to replace Col. Gross. The Center for Terrorism Law is nothing but a cheerleader for government policies designed to curb our liberty in the name of security.

There is no need for Maj. Hasan to appear in court clean-shaven. By ordering his beard to be shaved, the court was making a point of telling Maj. Hasan who was in charge. It was nothing but a power play. God knows we can't have anyone playing by anyone's rules but our own.

As Mr. Addicott pointed out, the appellate court didn't decide whether or not Maj. Hasan would be forcibly shaved. That may very well be a question that Col. Osborn must answer on her own.

When she makes that decision, I hope she keeps in mind how she found herself in charge.

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