By Megan McCloskey
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — That something as banal as facial hair is stalling justice in the Fort Hood shooting case is frustrating some of the families of the victims.
Legal wrangling kept the court-martial against Maj. Nidal Hasan from going forward for more than 2½ years. Then late last summer, victims and their families thought they were finally going to see the Army psychiatrist stand trial for allegedly shooting more than four dozen people on Nov. 5, 2009, at the Texas base.
But Hasan’s newly grown beard has set off yet another set of delays while the court sorts out whether the judge can legally order him to shave.
“We think it’s ridiculous,” said Kim Cooke, sister to Spc. Matthew Cooke, who was shot five times. “We feel like they’re more concerned with Hasan’s rights than they are with my brother.”
Hasan grew the beard in confinement against Army grooming regulations, claiming he was following the tenets of his Muslim religion. The judge in his case ordered him forcibly shaved if he wouldn’t do so voluntarily, and that triggered a series of appeals — bringing the court-martial to its current standstill. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Many families said they found Hasan’s beard a mockery, and they want him held accountable to Army regulations, but they were disheartened at how much effect it had on the case.