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Fort Hood shooting suspect could question victims at court-martial

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 3:42pm

If Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan follows through on representing himself at trial, he'll get the rare opportunity to cross-examine victims on the stand.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, faces a court-martial on murder charges in a November 2009 shooting rampage at the base near Killeen, Texas, that left 13 people dead and dozens more wounded.

He has been cleared to represent himself in the case. Jury selection was supposed to begin Wednesday, but Hasan, 42, has requested more time to prepare for trial.

"If Hasan is the lawyer, he will be cross-examining victims, people that he shot, which is a really appalling prospect," said Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst.

One victim said he is "very upset" by the prospect of facing questioning by Hasan on the witness stand. Staff Sgt. Alonso Lonsford, who was shot seven times, including once in the head, said he found the strength to survive because he wanted to see justice served on a man who betrayed his uniform.

Still, he is not relishing his day on the stand.

"The way I look at it, Maj. Hasan is an Army psychiatrist and so he's very well trained on how to deal with service members that suffer ... traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder," Lonsford said. "I know that he's going to try to push certain triggers to get a physical reaction out of us to try to help him on his quest to become a martyr, so basically we have to outsmart and outwit him at the game he's trying to play."

Toobin concurred that Hasan was striving for martyrdom after the defendant told a judge he was defending Taliban leadership, specifically Mullah Mohammed Omar, during the massacre.

"He is trying to become a martyr, trying to be executed for this crime," Toobin said, adding that Hasan's defense amounted to a "form of suicide by judge."

Many murder defendants have represented themselves at trial. Ted Bundy cross-examined witnesses. Long Island Railroad shooter Colin Ferguson cross-examined his own victims.

After the testimony of Maryanne Phillips, the first person shot during the 1993 massacre, Ferguson asked if she had closed here eyes while playing dead after she was shot, according to a New York Times account from his 1995 trial.

"Yes, so you wouldn't come back and shoot me again," she said.

"But if your eyes were closed, how could you see the man you say was doing the shooting?" Ferguson asked, according to the paper.

Ferguson was found guilty. He will serve life in prison as his earliest possible release date is 2309.

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