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Process Run Amok

Pop quiz:  How long ago was it that Maj. Nidal Hasan gunned down 13 people at Ft. Hood, Texas?

Forgot?  So did I.  He did it one month short of three years ago, in November 2009.

So you're probably wondering how his appeal is faring.  But you need not.  You see, there is no appeal.  That's because there has been no trial.  Indeed, the trial is not even about to start.

This is not because of any suppression issues, mind you.  The reason there has been no trial is that Hasan discovered that his religion, Islam, requires him to grow a beard.  The judge of the military trial, however, ruled that he cannot have a beard, and has threatened to have it forcibly shaved.  The matter is now before the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.  It was argued this morning.  As the Reuters story reports, "The appeals court gave no time frame for issuing its decisions. Rulings can be appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces."

Well that's good.  Wouldn't want to rush things.

I know nothing of military law, and I have no view about whether Maj. Hasan legally can or cannot have a beard.  Like the rest of the literate world, however, I know that Hasan is the gunman, shouting as he was shooting that it was for the glory of Allah.

The only serious question about this case is why this great country allows itself to be turned into a pretzel  about some mass killer's beard.  Shave it or don't shave it, let's get on with the only justice that fits this crime. 


So much for the perception that military courts are a model of judicial efficiency.

Don't be so hard on the military courts. After all, look how quickly the 9/11 defendants at Guantanomo stood trial. Oh, wait - that's right: 11+ years and counting and all we've had are hand-wringing challenges crying about "fairness" and procedure. Let's just think back to the arraignment in May (after which, not much has occurred). One defense attorney asked the court to order female trial participants to wear traditional Islamic garb to avoid offending the defendants. Personally, I find it far more offensive to force innocent people to choose between hurling themselves out of a skyscraper versus burning to death. The true lesson here is that delay and obfuscation in the purported name of "fairness" and "justice" does nothing but prevent actual justice.

Bruce Seeliger

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