October 11, 2010

Prominent forensic psychologist hired in Ford Hood massacre case

The defense team for Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan has retained prominent forensic psychologist Xavier Amador. The New York-based expert has been involved in several high-profile cases involving the military, including those of PFC Lynndie England (of Abu Ghraib infamy) and U.S. Army sergeant Hasan Akbar, who killed two fellow officers and wounded 14 soldiers in Kuwait in 2003. He was also a defense expert in the trial of would-be 9/11 hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui.

Amador's hiring came amid hints that Hasan might be resistant to defense efforts to develop evidence of possible mental issues, according to a report in yesterday's Dallas Morning News. The defense dismissed a previous forensic psychologist due to "irreconcilable differences."

The defense team has successfully delayed the military's efforts to have its own panel of psychiatric experts evaluate Hasan. The military's sanity board will evaluate Hasan to determine whether he had a severe mental illness at the time of the shooting, whether he knew right from wrong at the time of his alleged actions, and whether he is competent to stand trial.

Some experts say Hasan may resist any insanity defense due to his medical training and his desire to be seen as motivated by his faith, according to the in-depth report by Lee Hancock of the Dallas Morning News.

Hasan faces the death penalty in the shooting deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood. His Article 32 evidentiary hearing is set to begin Tuesday.

Military suicides skyrocketing

Meanwhile, in the wake of last November's massacre, stressful conditions continue unabated at sprawling Ford Hood in Texas. So far this year there have been 20 suspected suicides, out of at least 125 in the Army overall, according to a report in today's New York Times. The record level of mental breakdown among U.S. soldiers is being attributed to the longevity of combat deployment. Also, after nine years of war, the military is accepting less stable individuals and is increasingly short on qualified mental health personnel.

Critics say that even when service members are identified as severely depressed, they are often just prescribed medication rather than given meaningful help.

Today's New York Times article on military suicides is HERE.

Hat tip: Ken Pope

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