Colonel Gregory Gross, acting as the judge in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting spree trial, has been removed from the case.The Houston Chronicle reports that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled to remove the judge, following proven bias throughout the trial.
13 died and 32 others were injured in Fort Hood, Texas, as Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Hasan went on a killing spree. He was stopped by arresting officers, who opened fire as they arrived at the scene. Shot four times, he remains paralyzed.
During the trial, he let his beard grow, citing his Muslim faith as the reason. His actions go against military regulations regarding grooming standards. Six times, Gross fined him $1,000 (€763) for refusing to shave it off.
Colonel Kris Poppe, Hasan's attorney, argues that his client has the right to uphold his faith, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. However, his beard was shaved the day of the shooting.
"[He] is a practicing Muslim and has recently had a premonition that his death is imminent. He does not wish to die without a beard as he believes, according to his faith, not having a beard is a sin," Poppe states.
If convicted, the defendant will be facing the death penalty.
Gross's order "to remove (Hasan) from the courtroom, the contempt citation, and the decision to order (Hasan's) forcible shaving in the absence of any command action to do the same, could lead an objective observer to conclude that the military judge was not impartial towards appellant," the court of appeals rules.
"It could reasonably appear to an objective observer that the military judge had allowed the proceedings to become a duel of wills between himself and (Hasan) rather than an adjudication of the serious offenses with which (Hasan) is charged," the decision reads.