The Chicago Tribune reports that man charged with killing thirteen people and wounding more than two dozen more in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood has had his trial indefinitely delayed. Why has the trial been delayed? The suspect will not agree to shave.
It works like this. The suspect, Nidal Hasan, is a major in the U.S. Army. Army regulations do not generally allow people to have beards. Major Hasan grew a beard after he was arrested for the shooting. Major Hasan says that he grew a beard because he is a Muslim and facing death. According to the major, shaving the beard would be a sin and forcing him to shave the beard would be religious discrimination.
The trial court fined Major Hasan a $1,000 per court appearance where he showed up with a beard and then ordered that the major be forcibly shaved if he refused to shave. Major Hasan appealed and the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed that order. Major Hasan appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces which stayed the case on Monday pending further review.
According to the Tribune, the delay is a victory for Major Hasan because he had sought a continuance in June and had the request denied. As the Tribune notes, the stay is certain to ensure that the third anniversary of the shooting will pass before Major Hasan is tried.
One can be forgiven for wondering if the Army is placing grooming regulations above achieving justice for the victims of the shooting. If convicted, and there is a lot of evidence that supports a conviction, Major Hasan faces penalties that include the death penalty or life in prison. If convicted Major Hasan will undoubtedly be dishonorably discharged from the Army. At which point, Major Hasan will not have to comply with the Army's grooming regulations. One might find it hard to see the harm in giving the major a brief head start with not complying with the beard rule rather than delaying the trial while the beard issue is being appealed.