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CBS's Smith: Is Ft. Hood Shooter 'Competent To Stand Trial?'

Speaking to the defense attorney for Ft. Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan on Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith asked: "Do you think - and this is not from a scientific or even legal standpoint, but just as you've been able to speak with him, do you think he's competent to stand trial?"

In his first question to Hasan's attorney, retired Army Colonel John Galligan, Smith wondered: "First things first, you met with Hasan at some point yesterday. Is he coherent?" Galligan replied: "He's coherent." He then lamented: "I learned from, actually members of the media, that apparently he was going to be charged yesterday. I was surprised by that and I was saddened by the manner in which it occurred, because I - I received belated notice."

Smith seized upon that statement: "How unusual is it for a case as important as this one is, for the suspect to be charged with a crime and for his attorney not to be present?" Galligan admitted: "Well, there's no legal requirement that I have been present when the charges are preferred, under the manual." He then added: "I was extremely upset to learn that they were going about this important step in the pre-trial procedural process without formally notifying me....my first five minutes with the client were spent almost apologizing for the manner in which it went down."

After Smith questioned Hasan's competence, Galligan explained: "...he understands who I am, we can talk, he knows what time it is. But, again, I was only there for an hour and could I tell at the end of that one hour session I was kind of pushing the limits in terms of my ability to keep him fresh and alert in a discussion with me. His medical condition is extremely serious."

Smith first spoke with Galligan on Tuesday, and was similarly concerned with Hasan's mental state: "Is he coherent?....Does he know what he is alleged to have done?" At that time Smith also asked Galligan: "You said yesterday you don't think the Major can get a fair trial. Why not?" Galligan replied: "Well, I don't know if I said that he can't get a fair - I - I think that would be difficult to achieve at Ft. Hood given the - the national media attention that's been focused on the Ft. Hood community."

Smith went so far as to cite a terrorist who praised Hasan's actions:

Right. The - the military feels like the Major acted alone, that's why this is going to be a military trial. Yet at the same time, he - we know now that he has exchanged these many messages with this radical cleric named Anwar Al-Awlaki. Awlaki said over the last couple of days, he called Major Hasan a hero: "He's a man of conscious who could not bear living a contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an Army that is fighting against his own people." Are you satisfied that Major Hasan acted by himself?

Smith later suggested a possible legal strategy to Galligan: "Is it possible the government failed to defuse a ticking time bomb and might that end up being part of your defense?"

Here is a full transcript of the Friday segment:

7:07AM HARRY SMITH: One week after the Ft. Hood massacre, the suspect, Major Nidal Hasan, has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder as he lay in his hospital bed. Joining us from Ft. Hood, Texas is Colonel John Galligan, a retired Army officer who is Hasan's civilian attorney. Good morning, Colonel.

GALLIGAN: Good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Facing the Death Penalty; Hasan's Atty. Speaks Out On Murder Charges]

SMITH: First things first, you met with Hasan at some point yesterday. Is he coherent?

JOHN GALLIGAN: He's coherent and I - you're correct, I did meet with him. I was totally surprised to learn that there was going to be a major press release or a meeting with the disclosure by PAO officials. When I queried about that, I wasn't too sure what time it was going to occur, what it was going to be about. But I learned from, actually members of the media, that apparently he was going to be charged yesterday. I was surprised by that and I was saddened by the manner in which it occurred, because I - I received belated notice.

SMITH: Here's the important question. How unusual is it for a case as important as this one is, for the suspect to be charged with a crime and for his attorney not to be present?

GALLIGAN: Well, there's no legal requirement that I have been present when the charges are preferred, under the manual. However, given, as you've noted, the high profile nature of the case, given his location and status, still in an ICU unit, and described by me, based on the last time I saw him, in a medical condition that I would describe as guarded, I was extremely upset to learn that they were going about this important step in the pre-trial procedural process without formally notifying me. And by that I mean ensuring that I knew that it was going to be done, coordinating it in advance. That would have permitted me to be down there. In all honesty, my first five

minutes with the client were spent almost apologizing for the manner in which it went down.

SMITH: Right, let me-

GALLIGAN: This that wasn't, I don't think, my responsibility, but that's what happened.

SMITH: Right. Let me ask you this. Now that you've had the opportunity to speak with him a couple of times, do you think - and this is not from a scientific or even legal standpoint, but just as you've been able to speak with him, do you think he's competent to stand trial?

GALLIGAN: Well, his competence, and that is not mental responsibility or culpability for any charged offenses, but his competence, his ability to relate with me, he understands who I am, we can talk, he knows what time it is. But, again, I was only there for an hour and could I tell at the end of that one hour session I was kind of pushing the limits in terms of my ability to keep him fresh and alert in a discussion with me. His medical condition is extremely serious.

SMITH: Colonel Galligan, thank you very much for your time this morning.

GALLIGAN: You're welcome, sir. Thank you.

SMITH: You bet.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.