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Process moves toward jury selection in Hasan trial

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TWC News: Process moves toward jury selection in Hasan trial
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Both the prosecution and defense spent nearly an hour outside of the courtroom Thursday, going over questions to be included in a questionnaire to be sent to potential military panel members for Maj. Nidal Hasan's upcoming court martial.

Panel members are equivalent to a jury in a civilian case, and will be made up of Army officers of higher rank than the defendant.

Once court was in session, the judge went through a list of some of the proposed questions to determine whether they would or would not be included on the questionnaire.

As part of the process, the defense had a chance to challenge or question the judge's ruling.

Lead defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris Poppe tried to make a case to keep some of the questions included. His oral argument helped shed light on some of the questions the defense had proposed.

Among them, questions about the death penalty, as well what Poppe called “cultural questions.”

At least one of the more than 300 questions submitted by the defense and prosecution dealt with a potential panel member's personal beliefs about the death penalty.

If Maj. Hasan is found guilty, he faces the possibility of the death penalty, a sentence which must be reached by unanimous vote by the military panel.

Other questions were intended to determine whether panel members may be biased against Muslims or Muslim soldiers.

The judge reversed his ruling on some of the questions, and decided to allow them. However, the defense unsuccessfully argued to keep the majority of the questions they challenged.

The judge said the majority of the questions he rejected were removed on the grounds that they were confusing in wording or he felt that it committed the potential military panel members to come back with a certain verdict, if they were chosen.

Both the prosecution and defense are finalizing the questionnaires which they hope to have returned by July 20, one month before Hasan's court martial is scheduled to begin.

Accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan was once again missing from the courtroom for refusing to shave his beard, a violation of Army grooming standards. He was forced to watch the proceedings from a trailer located just outside the courthouse.

During Thursday's hearing, it was also revealed that the defense's attempt to appeal a judge's decision to the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals was denied. Last month the defense filed a motion, asking the judge to recuse himself or step down from the case, for what the defense called 'actual bias'. They felt the judge was biased against Maj. Hasan.

The next hearing is scheduled for July 25.

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