Fort Hood judge says jury won't be swayed by pretrial publicity

(CNN) -- The judge in the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting case said Wednesday the defense had failed to show that pretrial publicity would unfairly prejudice a jury.

Maj. Nidal Hasan, charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, more than three years ago, is seeking a change of venue. He's also seeking a change of venire, which refers to the pool of people that are potential jury members.

Col. Tara Osborn is presiding over the case. Most of the session was devoted to questioning a potential prosecution witness, Evan Kohlman, an international terrorism expert who apparently examined a hard drive belonging to Hasan. The defense wants him barred from testifying.

Bearded and thinner than he looks in many pictures, Hasan arrived at the court in a wheelchair.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is also charged with 32 counts of attempted murder in connection with the November 5, 2009, attack at the post's processing center, where soldiers were preparing to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The attack has been described as the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation. Hasan was paralyzed from the waist down after police exchanged fire with him.

Court-martial scheduled to start in May

Osborn ordered Hasan's court-martial to begin May 29 with jury selection and testimony to begin on July 1.

The start of Hasan's court-martial has been repeatedly delayed since it was initially set to begin in March 2012, most notably after an appeals court delayed the case over the question of whether the Army major's beard could be forcibly shaved.

Army regulations prevent soldiers from wearing facial hair while in uniform. Hasan, who is still considered a soldier, is a practicing Muslim and maintains he has the right to wear the beard under U.S. laws protecting religious freedoms.

The case resumed after a higher court dismissed the order that Hasan be shaved and replaced the judge in the case.

If convicted, Hasan faces a possible death penalty.

A U.S.-born citizen of Palestinian descent, he was a licensed psychiatrist who joined the Army in 1997.

He had been scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan before the killings, but had been telling his family since 2001 that he wanted to get out of the military.

Hasan had told his family he had been taunted after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Investigations tied to the Fort Hood shootings found he had been communicating via e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent radical Yemeni-American cleric killed by a U.S. drone attack in 2011.


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