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Accused Fort Hood shooter Hasan found in contempt of court

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TWC News: Accused Fort Hood shooter Hasan found in contempt of court
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Accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan was wheeled into the courtroom for the first time since June.

Hasan has been barred from the courtroom after growing a beard, which violates Army grooming standards.

Since last month, he has been watching the court proceedings from a trailer outside the courthouse through a closed circuit feed.

On Wednesday, Military Judge Col. Gregory Gross held a contempt hearing after Hasan once again refused to shave his beard.

The defense asked the judge for a stay on the contempt hearing, arguing that they would like an opportunity to call witnesses and have the contempt hearing before a different judge.

Gross denied the defense's request for the stay, and went on with the contempt proceedings.

During the proceeding, Hasan remained quiet even though the judge gave him an opportunity to speak up about what his sentence should be.

Hasan's defense attorneys spoke on his behalf, challenging the Army's decision to reject Hasan's previous request for a 'religious accommodation'.

If the request had been approved, Hasan would have been allowed to keep the beard and remain in the courtroom.

According to the defense, the Army as well as the Department of Defense did not follow the instructions laid out when they decided to deny the request.

The defense went on to say that Hasan only had a beard because of his religious beliefs, and because he had a premonition of an early death.

Defense attorney Maj. Joseph Marcee said Hasan was not preventing or disrupting court proceedings by having a beard, and since Hasan is in the middle of observing the Islamic month of Ramadan, forcing him to shave would cause him more damage than normal.

Despite the defense's argument, Gross found Hasan in contempt and ordered him to pay a $1000 fine. Judge Gross held the contempt hearing because he said the more he researched the issue, he found that not having Hasan physically present in the courtroom made it more likely that the issue is going to have some impact on appeal, which could lead to the case being overturned all together.

At that point, the judge gave Hasan the option of shaving his beard or watching the remainder of the hearing from the trailer.

After a short break, Hasan's attorneys returned to tell the judge that he was not going to shave because to do so would signify rejection of an important Islamic belief.

Gross said if Hasan still refuses to shave once the important stage of his trial begins, he can order Hasan be forcibly shaved.

During the hearing, the judge also heard several other motions filed by the defense.

The defense is asking for any documents associated with the senate and legislative inquiries.

According to the prosecution, they sent a inquiry about the documents the defense has requested. They were told that some notes were taken however those documents have not been located. If the documents are found, the defense was told they could review them and take notes, however they cannot receive a copy.

Other documents the defense is trying to get their hands on include the unredacted portion of the recently released Webster FBI report. The report is part of an investigation requested by the FBI about how the FBI and its Joint Terrorism Task Forces handled and acted on counterterrorism intelligence before and after the Fort Hood shootings.

The commission made 18 recommendations for changes and improvements in the report. The judge said he will look at the unredacted report and make a decision on whether the defense can see it.

Other motions brought up by the defense included a request for an additional $130,000 to keep their mitigation expert on staff through the trial. Defense attorney Maj. Christopher Martin argued that the mitigation expert still has mitigation witnesses he has to question.

The prosecution argued that the expert has already billed the government $350,000 since he has been on the case starting in April 2010.

However, the judge granted the defense's request. In addition the defense also received the more money they were asking for to pay a jury consultant to stay on the case, through military panel or jury selection.

The next hearing is set for August 2.

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