By Jim Kouri
In a preview of Maj. Nidal Hasan’s impending trial, that’s certain to become a courtroom circus, the judge who insisted the defendant shave his unkempt beard for his court martial will be replaced, according to a counterterrorism analyst on Tuesday.
Citing the appearance of judicial bias, the highest U.S. military appellate court yesterday ordered the removal of Army Col. Gregory Gross, an experienced jurist, as trial judge in the court-martial of the Army psychiatrist arrested in November 2009 following a shooting rampage at the deployment center at Fort Hood, Texas.
Maj. Nidal M. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. The self-avowed Islamist’s shooting spree was labeled a “workplace violence” incident rather than an Islamic terrorist attack by President Barack Obama and his minions including those at the Pentagon.
The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces stated in a 10-page opinion that because of a variety of factors, a reasonable person “would harbor doubts about the military judge’s impartiality.”
The appeals court did not accuse the trial judge of being actually biased, officials noted, but instead ordered the removal merely because there is an appearance of bias on the part of Judge Gross.
The appeals court also ordered the six previous contempt convictions against Hasan to be nullified.
Maj. Hasan, who is still technically an Army officer has repeatedly refused orders from Gross to shave his beard and conform with Army grooming standards in the courtroom, although it did not issue a ruling on whether Hasan has a right to wear his beard under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
A new trial judge will be detailed to the court-martial and will decide on the matter when the case goes back on the record in open court.