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Army judge to rule whether Fort Hood shooting suspect will get funding for 2 defense experts
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) ' A military judge was expected to rule Wednesday on whether the government should pay for two defense experts on behalf of an Army psychiatrist charged in the Fort Hood shooting rampage.
Maj. Nidal Hasan's attorneys have said he needs a jury consultant and another expert to determine how potential jurors might be influenced by the extensive pretrial publicity about the November 2009 shootings on the Texas Army post.
Military defense attorneys argued during an October hearing that because Hasan is a Muslim accused of having ties to a terrorist, they need both experts before their client goes on trial for his life.
The military judge, Col. Gregory Gross, will decide how much government funding to give the defense for one or both experts if Gross approves either request. Prosecutors have urged the judge to deny both motions, saying the experts are unnecessary.
At the start of Wednesday's pretrial hearing, defense attorneys asked Gross to recuse himself from the case, saying there could be an appearance of bias because the judge was on the Central Texas post the day of the 2009 shootings.
Gross countered that he was overseeing a trial that day and hearing news of the shooting had minimal effect on him. The judge didn't immediately rule on the motion.
Gross also was expected to hear Wednesday a defense motion on whether the military's death penalty procedures comply with the U.S. Constitution, Fort Hood officials said.
Hasan, 41, faces a death sentence or life in prison without parole if convicted in the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation. He is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Hasan, who was arraigned in July, has not yet entered a plea. His trial at Fort Hood is to start in March and is expected to last several months. Military jurors will be brought in from Fort Sill, Okla., according to documents filed in the case.
U.S. officials have said they believe Hasan's attack was inspired by the radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and that the two men exchanged as many as 20 emails. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in late September. Army prosecutors have never mentioned the cleric's name in any hearings in the criminal case against Hasan.
In early November before the second anniversary of the Fort Hood shootings, more than 80 people ' relatives of some of those killed and injured, as well as 10 who were wounded that day ' filed administrative claims seeking $750 million in compensation from the Army. They allege willful negligence and say the government had clear warnings that Hasan, an American-born Muslim, posed a grave danger to the lives of soldiers and civilians.
Hasan was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot by police on Nov. 5, 2009. He remains jailed.