By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times –
The man accused in the Fort Hood shootings may get to keep his beard.
A military judge’s “duel of wills” with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan over whether Hasan would have to shave made the judge appear biased, requiring his removal from the case, a military appeals court ruled Monday.
Hasan, who is Muslim, said he grew the beard for religious reasons and that it was protected under freedom of religious expression.
Military prosecutors disagreed, as did the judge, Col. Gregory Gross, who ruled that the beard violated the military dress code. Gross held Hasan in contempt of court for refusing to shave, ordered him removed from the courtroom, and later ordered that his beard be forcibly shaved.
Hasan appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The appeals court ruled that military command, not a military judge, has responsibility for grooming standards, and that Gross could no longer convincingly appear to be unbiased in handling Hasan’s case.
Gross’ order to shave Hasan’s beard — and the six counts of contempt he issued to Hasan—were wiped out by the appellate court’s ruling.
Hasan is charged with killing 13 people in November 2009 at the Army post in Texas. He was shot four times in the attack and paralyzed from the chest down. He now uses a wheelchair.