The military judge presiding over the Fort Hood shooting case has been ousted after an appeals court found that his treatment of the suspect, including an order to have the man forcibly shaved, indicated a lack of impartiality.
According to Associated Press, details were limited as to the impact of the ousted judge on the already delayed case in which Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged with 13 counts of murder in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage.
An appeal was filed on Hasan’s behalf after Col. Gregory Gross ordered that he must be clean-shaven or forcibly shaved before his military trial, which was supposed to begin three months ago.
In his appeal, Hasan has argued that his beard, which violates Army regulations, is a requirement of his Muslim faith.
While an Army appeals court reportedly upheld the shaving requirement in October the appeals court recently said the command, not the judge, is responsible for enforcing grooming standards.
Gross has been cited as claiming the beard to be a disruption to the court proceedings, but the military appeals court ruled there was insufficient evidence to show that was true, the AP reports.
"Should the next military judge find it necessary to address (Hasan's) beard, such issues should be addressed and litigated anew," judges wrote in the ruling, which was obtained by the AP.
The beard situation lead Gross to find Hasan in contempt of court to six pretrial hearings because of his beard and sent him to a trailer to watch the proceedings on a closed-circuit television.
Additional reports indicate that the the judge showed a bias against Hasan when he asked defense attorneys to clean up a court restroom after Gross found a medical waste bag, adult diaper and what appeared to be feces on the floor after a June hearing.
Hasan, who is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police on the day of the shootings, has to wear adult diapers — but the mess in the restroom that day was mud from a guard's boots, according to Lead defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris Poppe.
"In light of these rulings, and the military judge's accusations regarding the latrine, it could reasonably appear to an objective observer that the military judge had allowed the proceedings to become a duel of wills between himself and (Hasan) rather than an adjudication of the serious offenses with which (Hasan) is charged," judges wrote in the ruling.
According to the AP, Fort Hood officials said that proceedings in the case will resume after a new judge is appointed by the Army’s highest legal branch.
Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted in the shootings on the Texas Army post that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others.
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