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The trial of Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the soldier charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder in the Fort Hood shootings, will put a spotlight on the difference between the military and civilian criminal justice systems. Specifically, it will highlight the important distinctions between a military court-martial panel (as military juries are called) and a federal or state jury. Hasan’s most likely will be referred by the convening authority (commander) as a capital case, making it an exceptional situation within the unique rules of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Under the UCMJ, a general court-martial requires the presence of a military judge, trial counsel, defense counsel and court members who make up the military panel. David A. Schlueter, Military Criminal Justice: Practice and Procedure § 4- 15(A), (C) (4th ed. 1996). Military members accused of crimes are entitled to military defense counsel free of charge, no matter their rank. Military members can retain civilian counsel to represent them at courts-martial at no expense to the government. Military members are still entitled to military defense counsel even if they retain a civilian attorney.

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