The US army psychiatrist who has admitted to opening fire on fellow soldiers in the Fort Hood massacre is deliberately seeking the death penalty, his stand-by defense attorney said Wednesday.
Lieutenant Colonel Kris Poppe urged a military judge to either prevent Major Nidal Hasan from representing himself at the high-profile trial or else allow the court-appointed lawyers tasked with assisting him to be distanced from the case.
"It became clear his goal is to remove impediments and obstacles to the death penalty," Poppe told the court as the second day of Hasan's trial began.
Hasan interrupted Poppe, declaring "this is a twist of the facts" and insisting he was not trying to martyr himself.
Military judge Colonel Tara Osborn cleared the courtroom to discuss the matter privately with Hasan and then called an early end to the day's proceedings.
Hasan has repeatedly attempted to plead guilty to killing 13 people and wounding dozens more in the 2009 attack at a Texas military base.
Military law prohibits Hasan from pleading guilty to a capital offense and so he has been given the opportunity to try to convince the jury that he does not deserve death for his actions.
Now aged 42, Hasan was due to deploy to Afghanistan weeks after the attack. He has said he shot the soldiers to protect his fellow Muslims from an "illegal" war.
"The evidence will clearly show I am the shooter," Hasan declared in his opening statements Tuesday.
The statement, which lasted just a couple minutes, reiterated his radical views.
"We, the mujahedeen, are imperfect Muslims trying to establish a perfect religion in the land of the supreme God," Hasan said. "I apologize for any mistakes that I made in this endeavor."
© AFP 2013