The Army Asks If Major Nidal Hasan Is Insane

Lawyer for Fort Hood Shooter Will Explore Mental Responsibility Issue

The Army wants a formal inquiry into the sanity of accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, Hasan's lawyer John Galligan told ABC News.

Galligan, who had earlier told Good Morning America that he is considering an insanity defense for his client, said he received notice via e-mail at 7:45 p.m Tuesday that the Army would ask to convene a "sanity board" to evaluate Hasan's mental state. According to Galligan, the e-mail said, "Given the magnitude and seriousness of the crimes alleged in the specifications, such alleged conduct makes me believe the accused lacks mental responsibility and capacity."

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The e-mail was signed by Captain James Huber, Hasan's unit commander. A call to Huber was not returned by press time.

"Bottom line is," Galligan told ABC News, "the unit commander has concluded that there's adequate grounds to believe the accused may have lacked mental responsibility and capacity to such a point where [he is requesting] a formal inquiry."

Galligan said he understands the request. "It corroborates what I've been saying all along, and that is that this case would invariably present issues of mental responsibility."

The procedure would assemble a panel of individuals, presumably military officers, who would establish whether Hasan is competent to stand trial in a military court and whether he was mentally responsible at the time of the shooting. It can be requested by a number of different parties, including the defense, the prosecution, the judge and the defendant's commanding officer. As of Wednesday afternoon, Colonel Morgan Lamb, who has authority to convene the sanity board, had not yet approved Capt. Huber's request.

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But Galligan objected to the timing of the proceeding. Hasan is still in the ICU at San Antonio's Brooke Army Medical Center, said Galligan. "He can't relate to his own lawyer, let alone inquiring psychiatrists." Hasan, who is recovering from bullet wounds, is paralyzed from the chest down. Galligan said Hasan fell asleep during a recent pre-trial confinement hearing held in his hospital room.

Galligan said he would like to "put the brakes on" until "we can be in receipt of all the evidence that a sanity board should properly consider before making its ultimate findings on this important issue."

"I'm concerned that the prosecution, by doing this at this juncture, is just trying to rush the procedure," said Galligan. "Normally these requests come from the defense, and I have never had one where the defendant is still in the ICU."

Defense Attorney Hints at Army's Possible Conflicts of Interest

Galligan said he is also concerned about the composition of the "Sanity Board," since it would be likely to include Army psychiatrists. Major Hasan is himself a psychiatrist, and his alleged actions have raised questions about his training and about whether warning signs were missed by the Army's medical personnel.

"As we know," said Galligan, "the psychiatric profession at large is under the looking glass."

Hasan is charged with 13 counts of murder in the Nov. 5 massacre at the Army base in Killeen, Texas.

Galligan told Good Morning America last week that his client will probably plead not guilty and that an insanity defense is possible.

"I'm fairly confident that that's going to have to at least be examined," said Galligan. "And that's problematic. But we haven't reached that stage yet."

Galligan, a retired Army colonel, served as a defense attorney, prosecutor and judge during more than three decades in the military. He is now in private practice in Belton, Texas.

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