Lawyer for Accused Fort Hood Shooter to Raise 'Mental Responsibility' Issue

Lawyer met with accused Fort Hood shooter for half an hour.

BySARAH NETTER via via logo
November 10, 2009, 8:22 AM

Nov. 10, 2009— -- The lawyer for the accused Fort Hood gunman indicated today he will question his client's mental competence, telling ABC News that one of the first things any lawyer would want to determine is whether there is a "mental responsibility issue present."

Retired Army colonel John P. Galligan has been retained by the family of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people in a murderous rampage last week and wounding dozens more.

Galligan, who was a military judge at Fort Hood until his retirement, met with his client Monday night at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio where Hasan is being treated for the four bullet wounds he received from hero cop Sgt. Kimberly Munley.

In an interview today on "Good Morning America," Galligan said Hasan was still heavily sedated, but understood why his lawyer was there.

"We met for about a half an hour," Galligan said. "He's still hospitalized and I'm not a doctor but I'd consider his condition still guarded."

Galligan, who was accompanied in his hospital visit by Major Christopher Martin, refused to comment on Hasan's state of mind or any possible motive for the shooting, saying it would be "premature and improper."

He said, however, "Anytime someone is charged with an offense of this nature, and I'm not talking about his case specifically, any defense counsel would want to ensure there is not a mental responsibility issue present."

Hasan, Galligan said, "was sufficiently coherent to understand that he had two capable defense counsel there... He knew who I was, even though, again he was heavily sedated, sedated to the point, I think, he was starting to doze off."

The lawyer said he intends to make sure that Hasan's rights are protected, and to that end has asked federal authorities to stay away from his client. Galligan also said that Hasan's defense counsel will request its own investigator as well as paralegal assistance to conduct its own investigation into last week's attack.

"I don't think we really know all of the facts, we don't know what the charges are, we're not even necessarily sure of exactly what the specific jurisdictions" Galligan told ABC News.

Obama Vows Investigation Into Nidal Malik Hasan's Actions

While no charges have been filed yet against Hasan, military sources have confirmed to ABC News that Hasan will be charged and tried in military court, although it still not clear if the trial would be held at Fort Hood or at another military facility.

Prosecutors have also said they have yet to be able to determine a motive for the lethal rampage, although family and acquaintances say Hasan was increasingly religious and had turned against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition, Hasan was distressed by the stories told by injured soldiers where he previously worked as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed Hospital, and had recently received word that he was going to be deployed to Afghanistan.

President Obama, who will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood today for the massacre's victims, told ABC News' Jake Tapper that investigators are reviewing Hasan's actions.

"We are going to complete this investigation and we are going to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again," Obama said.

"I think the questions that we're asking now and we don't have yet complete answers to is, is this an individual who's acting in this way or is it some larger set of actors? You know, what are the motivations? Those are all questions that I think we have to ask ourselves," the president said.

The toll of wounded rose today to 43. Fort Hood officials said some of the casualties didn't report their injuries until later.

Fifteen victims remained hospitalized with gunshot wounds, and eight were in intensive care.

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