FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - A military judge on Wednesday blocked prosecutors from seeing a mental health report on the U.S. Army psychiatrist who admitted killing 13 soldiers in a 2009 shooting rampage at a Texas army base, even though he wanted to make the report public.
The report revealed that Major Nidal Hassan, 42, told mental health evaluators that he wanted to become a martyr as a result of his attack.
Hassan, acting as his own defense lawyer, had offered to share the confidential and potentially damaging report with prosecutors in his court-martial on 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 charges of premeditated attempted murder.
“It’s clear to the court that the accused has waived his privilege (right to keep the report confidential),” Judge Colonel Tara Osborn said. “I‘m going to treat it as if it had not been waived.”
Standby defense lawyers assigned to assist Hasan have said they believe he is actively seeking the death penalty. In the medical report in question, Hasan told a panel of evaluators he had hoped to die while carrying out “jihad” because it would signal God had designated him as a religious martyr.
Hasan has already told the jury “I am the shooter,” saying he “switched sides” in what he considered a U.S. war on Islam.
By denying prosecutors the full, 49-page sanity report, also known as a 706 form, the judge likely also kept it from being seen by the jury.
“You can’t find a more confidential document in the entire case file than the 706 long form,” said James Culp, a prominent defense lawyer for defendants in the military justice system.
Hasan authorized civilian lawyer John Galligan to leak the report to The New York Times, which published the images of three pages of the report online on Tuesday.
Osborn instructed prosecutors to avoid reading any media reports containing the leaked excerpts.
She also reaffirmed a previous ruling that standby attorneys must continue to aid Hasan with his defense. The standby lawyers had requested to reduce their role because they believed he was seeking the death penalty.
Hasan opened fire on fellow soldiers in a Fort Hood medical facility on November 5, 2009, eventually being shot by military police. Paralyzed from the waist down, he attends court in a wheelchair and rarely cross-examines witnesses.
“I‘m paraplegic and could be in jail for the rest of my life,” Hasan told the panel of military mental health experts. “However, if I died by lethal injection I would still be a martyr.”
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Andre Grenon