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Fort Hood suspect's lawyer seeks mental exam delay

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[January 26, 2010]  FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- An attorney for the Army psychiatrist accused of going on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood said Monday he wants his client's mental evaluation delayed, citing a potential conflict of interest with the exam panel.

HardwareArmy officials previously appointed a three-member board of military mental health professionals to determine whether Maj. Nidal Hasan is competent to stand trial and his mental status the day of the November shooting, which left 13 dead and dozens wounded on the Texas Army post.

The board is to start reviewing documents next week and begin evaluating the Army psychiatrist as early as Feb. 8, said Hasan's attorney John Galligan. After the board interviews and does psychological testing on Hasan, the findings will go to Army prosecutors by the end of February.


But Galligan said one panel member taught at the medical school Hasan attended, although Galligan was unsure if that doctor directly taught or knew Hasan. Galligan declined to release any board members' identities.

In his motion to Army officials last week, Galligan said he also requested an all-civilian board, saying doctors with no military ties likely would be more objective and not worried about repercussions if their diagnosis was considered favorable to Hasan.

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates released an internal Pentagon review that found several unidentified medical officers failed to use "appropriate judgment and standards of officership" when reviewing Hasan's performance as a student, internist and psychiatric resident.

"Why would this same system evaluate one of its own in a case of this magnitude?" Galligan said Monday from his office near Fort Hood, about 150 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

Fort Hood officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

Galligan also said he still has not received military files relevant to Hasan's mental status, including academic and performance evaluations, records indicating Hasan was at risk of psychosis and minutes of meetings in which Hasan allegedly discussed his religious concerns.

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Galligan said he wants to present those documents to the board for its review.

"I don't know if it will help or hurt his case, but it's something the board should have," Galligan said.

The exam is expected to be done at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where Hasan is undergoing rehabilitation for his paralysis. Authorities have said Hasan was shot and wounded by Fort Hood's police force.

The sanity board will determine whether Hasan had a severe mental illness at the time of the shooting, and if so, his clinical psychological diagnosis, whether that prevented him from knowing at the time that his alleged actions were wrong, and if he is competent to stand trial, according to military law.

[Associated Press; By ANGELA K. BROWN]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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