Major Hasan Sanctioned For Failing To Shave For Court In Fort Hood Case

Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is facing trial for 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood. Before that trial can occur, however, Hasan is facing a sanction that understandably fails to concentrate his mind as much as the looming death sentence: a second $1000 fine for failing to shave for court. While the military requires personnel to be shaven, Hasan is citing his Islamic faith as requiring him to appear in a beard. He has now been held in contempt of court twice for failing to shave by the judge, Col. Gregory Gross.

Since Hasan is expected to spend the rest of his life in jail or be put to death, a running fine would not appear a significant concern for him. Perhaps for that reason, Gross has threatened that he may order Hasan to be forcibly shaved at some point before his Aug. 20 trial. However, not having Hasan in the courtroom on pre-trial proceedings could create grounds for a later challenge. For that reason, judge, Col. Gregory Gross had Hasan taken to a nearby trailer to watch the proceedings by closed circuit television.

My guess is that a federal court would uphold the forced shaving order as well as the use of close circuit television. There have been a slew of challenges over military grooming and dress requirements. Courts have largely deferred to the military as a matter of good order and discipline in such matters. In Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503 (1986), an Orthodox Jew and ordained rabbi contested an order not to wear a yarmulke while on duty as a commissioned officer in the Air Force at March Air Force Base. The Supreme Court upheld the order (agreeing with the appellate court that reversed a district court order enjoining the order). The Court held:

The desirability of dress regulations in the military is decided by the appropriate military officials, and they are under no constitutional mandate to abandon their considered professional judgment. Quite obviously, to the extent the regulations do not permit the wearing of religious apparel such as a yarmulke, a practice described by petitioner as silent devotion akin to prayer, military life may be more objectionable for petitioner and probably others. But the First Amendment does not require the military to accommodate [475 U.S. 503, 510] such practices in the face of its view that they would detract from the uniformity sought by the dress regulations.

The order to forcibly shave a defendant is clearly problematic, but is likely to be upheld under the same logic. The question is whether the defendant can waive being present in the hearing room and be allowed to keep his beard while watching from a trailer. This would however deny the jury the ability to see the defendant except by way of a television screen. It could also undermine the defense by making the defendant seem more dangerous or remote. What do you think?

Source: USA Today

33 thoughts on “Major Hasan Sanctioned For Failing To Shave For Court In Fort Hood Case”

  1. junctionshamus, I worked @ USP Leavenworth which is not for the faint of heart. However, the Army Discilpinary Barracks just down the road makes the Pen look like Mister Roger’s house. A lot of folks think the two institutions are one in the same; and although just a mile or so apart, they are two very different places.

  2. Thank you all for getting me up to date. I got out when we were still wearing high-waisted dress blues with shoulder epaulets, greens, and green fatigues—which was ok for field use. Don’t think the 322nd Sig Bn who got shipped off to Nam in ’62 got any other.

    The toughest duty I did was handling a Major Generals’s daughter, and nominal honcho of field tests of electronic surveillance equipment.

    Back then the Master Sergeants said: “The old Army, the new Army, and this damn thing.” What do they say now?

    People running around the Pentagon in camouflage PO’s me.

  3. The shaving standard is not just for grooming standards, but also safety. A gas mask will not hold its seal if the individual is not shaven, and the military has to be ready for anything at a moments notice. So if Joe PFC has to shave, I see no reason why the Major should be allowed not to.

  4. @NickS – Part of me says “blanket party”. And as far as contempt citations, I don’t know if he’s drawing his O-4 pay, plus MD bonus while in pre-trial status.

    Years ago, I had to take some paychecks to some troops who were being held in Mannheim (the military stockade for European troops). While waiting for the “Koh-rec-TEEs” to arrive, I had to use the latrine. Lots of nice shiny plumbing. Told the sergeant that it didn’t seem like too much of a chore to keep the pipes clean, as they were all stainless steel. “STAINLESS STEEL MY ASS!!” he replied, “that’s 30 years of Brasso on cast iron!”

  5. idealist7071, August 6, 2012 at 11:06 am

    “When did rank symbols move off the lapels to the chest?”

    With the issue of the ACU (Army Combat Uniform) in 2005 – as far as I know only the army wears its insignia llike this and then only on the ACU.

  6. I can understand the court’s desire to emphasize its authority (which is what this shaving business is about) and the sanctions are completely approriate, though I am ambivialent about the forced shaving – we don’t use physical force on servicemembers to compell compliance with grooming standards in any other situation.
    On the other hand, its ulitmately a pretty petty issue and the courts should push ahead with the trial with the defendent physically present, I don’t think an unkempt beard is going to predujice the jury in either direction.

    As you say “Darren Smith” its circus grandstanding, and by pushing the issue the courts play into the defendent’s hands. If he’s found innocent he’ll face having to pay the sanctions (or serve time for contempt) and if found guilty the presence or abscence of the beard will be irrelevant.

  7. He is in the military so he shall observe the dress code. For reference, how about Nidal look at other military personnel who happen to be muslim from other countries. Most of them are clean shaven.

    The court should not allow this circus show to detract from the proceeding. I would question his true motives. If one of them would be to attempt to derail his conviction or punishment because of the beard, allowing defendants an avenue for which later they can take advantage of on appeal should be prevented.

    Multiple Murders should not in ANY way be diminished by circus acts of the defendants. He killed multiple people. Is that irrelevant because of the focus to allow him wear a beard? Should we allow people to get away with crimes because of these distractions. I say no.

    Also remember this is a court martial not a civilian trial.

  8. FYI – Subdued/combat insignia of rank are “gold” for 2LTs and MAJs, all the rest are black, for enlisted, warrant and commissioned personnel, as well as special agents for MI and CID, who wear (or did when I was in service) Insignia that just said “US”.

  9. i707 – Seems my reply through my alter ego was lost in the ether.

    If you look at his chest, MAJ Hasan is sporting a “subdued” gold (actually babyshit brown) oak leaf cluster. Being a physician, he most likely cam into the Army as a captain.

    Don’t know if by “induction” you meant draft. No draft since 1972. I would think that a pshrink could bypass what little screening there would be.

    Lastly, due to the tremendous amount of PTSD cases dealt with by the US armed forces, they were probably glad to have him.

  10. Many years ago, in Jackson, MS, a defendant had been convicted of a particularly heinous murder. The jury recommended the death penalty. Before passing sentence, the judge asked him if he wished to address the court. The defendant rose and started cursing the judge and jury. The judge told him he could speak, but foul-mouthed outbursts would not be tolerated. The defendant doubled down on the cursing. The judge, showing remarkable restraint, calmly told the young man that if he did not conduct him self in a more civil manner he would be cited for contempt.

    The defendant looked at the judge incredulously, asking, “What you gonna do judge, take the light bulb out of my cell?”

  11. What’s a 1000 dollars unless he was going to use it as tip money for the 70 virgins……

  12. JS,

    Two points, please.

    When did rank symbols move off the lapels to the chest?
    I had sewn on rank on my lapel. I do now see the gold oak leaf cluster on his middle chest. Thanks.

    I am aware of that we actually do not have an induction system as we do not have a draft system.
    All are volunteers today. Which leads to abuse of personnel, and PTSD and suicide.

    I assume he went through an evaluation period, just as I did as a signal officer with 25 other ROTC engineers.

  13. I think a dry shave would be in order. I don’t know about close circuit. WWJJHD[What would Judge Julius Hoffman Do?].

  14. I707 – If you look on the center of his chest, you will see a “subdued” gold oak leaf cluster. Also, he was not inducted, but was a volunteer, most likely entered as a captain, as an MD.

    2nd lieutenants and majors have subdued gold (babyshit brown), all other subdued (combat) insignia are black.

  15. Since he is still in the military, I would think he would be bound by their regulations. I don’t recall him wearing his beard when he allegedly shot all those people on the base.

  16. From the photo, it would appear that he is forced to wear the uniform. NB without his rank or insignia.
    A uniform is a symbol of voluntary acceptance of uniformity.

    He thus has no choice. He should be shaved and meet his jurors face to face.

    The induction system’s incapacity to detect unstable personalities amazes me.

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