Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New III Corps Commander to Meet with Hasan's Attorneys
By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald

Five days after taking command of III Corps and Fort Hood, Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr. notified Maj. Nidal Hasan's attorneys that he was available to meet with them before he makes a decision in the accused killer's case.

Hasan's defense team, led by retired Col. John Galligan, is set to meet May 6 to present anything for Campbell's consideration, according to information from Fort Hood.

Hasan, a former Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center psychologist, was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center.

Defense's tactics

The defense team will try to convince Campbell that Hasan can't get a fair trial because of the nature of the case and issues like the constant use of the term terrorist, retired Lt. Col. Geoffrey S. Corn, an associate professor of law at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, wrote in a Tuesday email to the Herald.

Fort Hood officials referred questions about the proceedings to Corn because Army prosecutors can't comment on cases.

"They will also try and convince him that he will suffer more if he gets life in prison (rather) than death," Corn said of defense attorneys. "Put those two together and it will justify, they will argue, taking death off the table."

Defense attorneys had a similar meeting with Col. Morgan Lamb, the special court-martial convening authority in Hasan's case, where they presented matters for Lamb's consideration, according to information from Fort Hood. After the meeting, Lamb, who commands the 21st Cavalry Brigade, decided to forward the charges pending against Hasan to a general court-martial convening authority.

Campbell is the general court-martial convening authority.

Predicting Campbell

Campbell has several options concerning the charges forwarded to him, according to information from Fort Hood, which include sending the pending charges to trial by court-martial and deciding whether such charges should be tried as capital offenses, dismissal of charges or sending charges to a different convening authority.

Campbell will make a disposition decision in Hasan's case after his meeting with the defense team, according to information from Fort Hood, though no specific date has been set for that decision.

Campbell will almost certainly send the case to trial as a capital case, Corn said.

"It is highly unlikely he will be influenced by the defense plea," Corn went on to say. "He will want to let the military jury have the opportunity to convict and sentence to death. If they don't, so be it, but he won't want to take anything off the table."

Cone's perspective

It was announced in late March that the former commander, Lt. Gen. (promotable) Robert Cone, granted Galligan's request to delay the proceedings until after Campbell took command of III Corps and Fort Hood. Galligan said in an Associated Press report that Cone couldn't be impartial because he was at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009, and "received information about the case early on that may not have been accurate."

Cone relinquished command to Campbell on Thursday and is set to take command of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., this week.

It was smart of the Army to grant Galligan's request, Corn said, because Cone "was so very close to the incident and made comments like, 'This was an attack on our home.'"

Cone said in an interview early last week that the circumstances of Nov. 5 were, no doubt, the most challenging of his time in command. Cone took over for Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch in September 2009.

The incident showed the very best and the very worst of humanity, all at the same time, Cone said.

There was a public need for information following the shooting, Cone went on to say, and the confusion and false reports that came out in the aftermath motivated him to "drive out to the front gate and start talking to media."

The information wasn't always accurate, Cone admitted, but it was important the people of Central Texas know somebody was in charge at Fort Hood.

Cone could have acted on the case and it would have been OK, but it could have created a major appellate issue, Corn said. 

Delaying the case to wait for Campbell's arrival takes that issue away, he went on to say.

"Plus, it enhances the perception of fairness, which is always a good thing from the government's standpoint," Corn said.

Galligan likely wanted Campbell to rule on the case because he felt he could get a fairer shake from him than Cone, Corn said.

"But don't be so sure he is happy Cone is gone," he said. "As I said, that removes a potential appellate issue."

Advising the general

Now that Campbell has taken command at Fort Hood, it is up to III Corps' staff judge advocate to get him up to speed on the case. Col. Stuart Risch is the senior military attorney at Fort Hood, a post spokesman said Tuesday.

Risch is not the prosecutor in the case, but serves as Campbell's "general counsel," Corn said. Risch will prepare a document for Campbell called a pre-trial advise, which will review the case, the evidence and recommend what to do with it, Corn said.

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