Fort Hood shooting victims to get Purple Heart on Friday

Purple Heart
FILE. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

FORT HOOD, Texas (KXAN/AP) — Later this week, the victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting will receive Purple Hearts. Fort Hood officials will present 47 medals to the victims and their families at the Purple Heart and Defense of Freedom Medal Ceremony Friday.

Why it took almost six years for the medal ceremony to happen

  • The 2009 attacks were initially described as workplace violence, which made victims ineligible for Purple Hearts.
  • But victims and their families didn’t give up. Earlier this year, the long battle came to an end when the Department of Defense expanded the eligibility criteria by broadening what’s considered an attack by a foreign terrorist organization.
  • The Army considered the shooting an attack because the shooter was in communication with a foreign terror group before the incident.

The gunman who killed 13 people at a Texas military base in 2009 appeared in a Kansas court late January — without the beard he wore during his August 2013 trial and had fought to keep — and said he wanted to keep his lead appeals lawyer. A change of counsel could complicate an already-delayed review process. Nidal Hasan is being held on the military death row after being convicted and sentenced to death for the November 2009 rampage inside a medical readiness building at Fort Hood.

A Fort Hood spokesman confirmed Hasan’s beard had been forcibly shaved according to military guidelines.

Nearly 18 months after his conviction, Hasan has not yet had his case reviewed by top Fort Hood officials, as required in the military criminal justice system. If Fort Hood’s commanding general approves Hasan’s death sentence, he would then receive two mandatory reviews by military appellate courts and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.

While he represented himself at trial, Hasan’s appeals are being handled by a team led by Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, who has been named a military judge. In his new position, Poppe is subordinate to Col. Tara Osborn, Hasan’s trial judge, who is now the chief trial judge of the Army.

Osborn on Jan. 29 questioned whether Poppe could keep handling Hasan’s appeals, a position that requires him to try to find mistakes with Osborn’s handling of the trial. But Hasan told Osborn after conferring with another defense lawyer privately that he wanted to keep his counsel in place. Poppe argued he could handle both positions. Osborn asked the prosecution and the defense to state their positions in writing by next week.

Osborn ordering Poppe off the case could create grounds for a challenge by the next attorney to lead Hasan’s appeals, said Geoffrey Corn, a military law expert who teaches at South Texas College of Law.

Corn said the post-trial process for Hasan was taking much longer than a typical military case. But, he added, “That has been the unifying theme of everything in this case. Nothing has been routine.”

One unordinary hiccup was Hasan’s now-shaved beard. Hasan insisted on keeping the beard at trial in what he said was an expression of his Muslim faith. The judge on his case before Osborn was removed from the case by a military appeals court after he tried to order Hasan to be forcibly shaved.

Osborn allowed Hasan to keep the beard, despite it violating Army grooming rules.

___

Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Dallas contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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