Though Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan has chosen to defend himself in his mass murder trial, the former Army psychiatrist still has a team of standby defense attorneys. On Thursday, they said they want their roles to be minimized, the Associated Press reports, in order to distance themselves from Hasan "acting in concert" with prosecutors to get the death penalty.
The wheelchair-bound Hasan has so far told the jury that the evidence will prove he was the shooter and that he was "trying to establish the perfect religion in the land of the supreme god." On Wednesday, the standby attorneys asked the judge on to allow them to take over the case. She denied their request; now they want to remove themselves.
"It becomes clear his goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty and is working toward a death penalty," Hasan's lead standby attorney Lt. Col. Kris Poppe told judge Col. Tara Osborn. "We believe your order is causing us to violate our rules of professional conduct." He added that Hasan's courtroom actions are "repugnant to defense counsel and contrary to our professional obligations."
The attorneys said they will appeal her ruling to keep them on the case. The prosecution, meanwhile, believes there is no "moral dilemma" in Hasan's defense strategy.
As his own representation, Hasan was expected to question witnesses — including many survivors of the 2009 attack. But he has so far declined to cross-examine any soldiers he allegedly shot at.
Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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