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Ft. Hood massacre suspect Nidal Malik Hasan makes first courtroom appearance

Maj. Nidal Hasan at the Bell County Jail in Belton, Texas
AP/Bell County Sheriffs Department

(CBS/AP) FORT HOOD, Texas - Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly Fort Hood shooting rampage nearly two years ago, made his first courtroom appearance since the commander of the Texas Army post decided Hasan would face the death penalty.

Pictures: Fort Hood's Fallen Heroes

During the Wednesday arraignment, Hasan unexpectedly dropped his lead attorney, a retired Army colonel who had represented him since the 2009 attack on the U.S. army post.

Hasan, charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, said he wanted to be represented by three military attorneys. Two were already on his defense team.

John Galligan, the lead civilian attorney, was not in court. He told The Associated Press just before the hearing that he decided to step down temporarily but stood ready to "resume an active role."

Hasan did not enter a plea during the 15-minute arraignment, and it's unclear when he will. According to military law, he cannot plead guilty because it is a death penalty case.

Col. Gregory Gross, Fort Hood's chief circuit judge, set the military trial date for March, which the defense team had requested. Jurors will be brought in from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, according to documents filed in the case.

Complete coverage of Nidal Malik Hasan on Crimesider

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Pictures: Fort Hood's Fallen Heroes

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