U.S. Army shrink turned “holy warrior” Maj. Nidal Hasan took a first step as his own trial lawyer in court, admitting in his Opening Statement to the 13 anonymous jurors impaneled to hear the case: “I am the shooter.”
But by way of an explanation any believer in God can relate to, he apologized for the murders, saying: “We in the mujahideen are imperfect beings trying to establish a perfect religion. I apologize for any mistakes I have made in this endeavor.”
Right off the bat, he’s made two crucial mistakes. Or has he? The first is that he’s admitted to killing the 13 victims and maiming 30 others. The second is, he's proceeding without the help of a lawyer. Because the prosecution is seeking the death penalty if Hasan is convicted, he isn’t allowed to plead guilty under the Military Code. And he has a right to defend himself without the assistance of a lawyer during these proceedings as does anyone charged with a crime in a civilian or military court, but defendants rarely do.
One reason is that most people, even the guilty ones, don’t actually want to be found guilty, especially if they’re facing the death penalty. And there are mighty protections to help them avoid that result-including the right to remain silent, and the right to have assistance of an attorney free of charge if you can’t afford one. In other words, there is absolutely no reason to proceed without a lawyer unless you are either (a) arrogant or (b) want to or don’t care if you are found guilty.