News / USA

Judge Allows Emotional Evidence in Fort Hood Trial

Undated file photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department shows Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage.Undated file photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department shows Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage.
x
Undated file photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department shows Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage.
Undated file photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department shows Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage.
Greg Flakus
The judge in the trial of a U.S. Army major accused of killing 13 people has ruled that an emotional recording of a dying victim can be used as evidence.  The judge also set the date for Colonel Nidal Hasan's formal plea for Tuesday, July 2.  Legal experts, however, say Hasan could still cause another delay in the proceedings.

Colonel Tara Osborn ruled Thursday that military prosecutors can use a recording from the cell phone of Private Francheska Velez after she was shot.  She was pregnant at the time and cried out, "My baby, my baby!"  Velez died soon afterward.

Such dramatic material is often ruled inadmissible in trials, but military law expert Geoffrey Corn at South Texas College of Law in Houston says statements from dying victims are an exception.

"It will have an emotional impact on the jury, but there is nothing unfair about that.  That is the key; you only get to keep relevant evidence out when the prejudicial effect is unfair and there is nothing unfair in allowing the jury to hear the dying declaration of a murder victim," Corn said.

Military prosecutors say Velez was one of 13 people killed November 5, 2009, when Hasan fired on a gathering at Fort Hood, an army base in Texas.

The judge also cleared the way for jury selection to begin July 9.  Osborn set a July 2 hearing for Hasan to make his formal plea.

Since this is a capital case, in which the death penalty could be imposed, military law prohibits him from pleading guilty to first-degree murder.  Corn, however, says Hasan could cause another delay by trying to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

"He would do that to try to get some clemency value out of it. In other words, he could argue to the jury, 'Look, I am trying to accept responsibility without a deal, without any benefit, I am pleading guilty to non-capital murder.  I would have pled guilty to the capital offense, but I am not allowed to,'" Corn said.

Corn says that if Hasan tries this tactic, it could complicate the case and even result in two sets of accusations being considered separately.

Victims' families have expressed frustration over the delays in starting the trial.  Last year, there were several hearings over whether Hasan would be allowed to wear a beard, which he says is an expression of his Islamic faith.

The judge presiding over the case at that time ordered him to shave or be forcibly shaved to meet Army regulations.  But that judge was eventually replaced and Judge Osborn has allowed Hasan to keep the beard. She also has allowed him to serve as his own lawyer, but kept appointed defense attorneys on hand so that they can step in if needed.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs