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Mental State of Alleged Fort Hood Shooter Questioned

  • Carol Pearson

Mental State of Alleged Fort Hood Shooter Questioned

Mental State of Alleged Fort Hood Shooter Questioned

Lawyer indicates he will raise the sanity issue for Major Nidal Hasan

The lawyer for the man accused of killing 13 soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood says he will ask for a psychiatric evaluation of his client before the trial begins. The lawyer, retired Army Colonel John Galligan, says he wants to determine whether Major Nidal Hasan fits U.S. military guidelines of whether he can be held mentally responsible for his actions.

A light rain fell at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, the day Major Libarado Caraveo was burried with full military honors. Major Caraveo was one of the victims of the Fort Hood shooting.

Meanwhile, the suspect, Major Nidal Hasan, is recovering from gunshot wounds. At a hearing held at the hospital, a magistrate ruled that Hasan will be held until he can be transferred to jail.

The psychiatrist has been charged with killing 12 service members and a civilian.

Major Hasan's defense could include the military equivalent of an insanity plea according to his attorney, retired Army Colonel John Galligan. "This will be a fully contested trial, and I anticipate there will be major mental responsibility issues with the trial," he said.

Some of Major Hasan's former colleagues at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have told reporters they questioned his mental health.

Alan Lipman is a psychologist and a lawyer who specializes in the study of violence. "To be mentally ill does not mean you are insane. And, after all, there are all kinds of illnesses," he said.

Dr. Eric Anderson,a former US Navy psychiatrist, says mental illness is not an excuse for murder. "In psychiatry at least, I believe, that people are responsible for their actions. And that, even in the grips of a major depression, or of a bi-polar manic episode or schizophrenia with a psychotic break, individuals, still, are responsible for their actions," he said.

Based on media reports, Lipman says Dr. Hasan appeared to be mentally competent, at least up until the shootings. "Given the nature of the actions, given the ability of him to function in so many contexts, he was still able to go to work. He was still able to carry on his daily life. He was still able to understand what it was that he was doing, and what it was that he was not doing," he said.

Experts say the military is likely to claim that Dr. Hasan understood that what he allegedly did was wrong.

Two days before the attack, Dr. Hasan practiced target shooting at a shooting range. Christopher Wollen witnessed it. "He seemed like he was new at it, had some of the basic concepts down but hadn't been doing it for a very long time," he said.

To prove that Hasan was not responsible for his alleged actions, his lawyer would have to show that Hasan was not mentally responsible at the time of the shootings or is not competent to stand trial.

As a member of the military, Dr. Hasan will face a court martial. The case will likely be heard by a military judge and five military officers.

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