Army will delay mental evaluation of Hasan

(MILITARY TIMES)   FORT WORTH, Texas — Army officials agreed to delay a mental evaluation for the man suspected of going on a shooting spree at Fort Hood until after a military court hearing that will determine if he will stand trial, his attorney said Wednesday.

Defense attorney John Galligan told The Associated Press he received a letter Wednesday from Col. Morgan Lamb, a Fort Hood brigade commander who has been appointed to oversee judicial matters in the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan.

Lamb said Hasan’s mental exam will be delayed until after his Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, but the three-member board of military health professionals can start reviewing documents in the case, Galligan said.

Fort Hood officials did not immediately return a call Wednesday. It’s unclear when the Article 32 hearing would be held.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 shooting on the Texas Army post near Killeen, about 150 miles southwest of Fort Worth. He was paralyzed from gunshot wounds that day and remains in a San Antonio military hospital.

Galligan said he was pleased with the evaluation delay, calling it “a major development,” but said he still doubted that Hasan could get a fair trial.

But Galligan expressed concern that the two civilian members of Fort Hood’s police force credited with shooting Hasan and ending the rampage would be guests of the first lady during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Wednesday night.

“When they’re parading key witnesses in front of the nation, it’s disturbing,” Galligan said.

Before Lamb’s ruling, the panel, called a sanity board, was to interview and do tests on Hasan as early as Feb. 8 and report its findings by month’s end.

The panel will determine whether Hasan had a severe mental illness at the time of the shooting, and if so, his clinical psychological diagnosis, whether that prevented him from knowing at the time that his alleged actions were wrong, and if he is competent to stand trial, according to military law.

Galligan had requested the delay, citing his lack of military files related to Hasan’s mental status and a potential conflict of interest with the panel. Galligan said one member taught at the medical school when Hasan was a student, and the attorney asked for an all-civilian panel.

Lamb denied a request for civilian mental health experts to be on the panel, Galligan said, adding that “we will continue to fight that.”

Lamb approved Galligan’s request for more documents — including academic and performance evaluations, records indicating Hasan was at risk of psychosis and minutes of meetings in which Hasan allegedly discussed his religious concerns.

Lamb also will allow a forensic psychologist on the defense team to be present for Hasan’s evaluation, Galligan said.

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