By BEN CASSELMAN and MIGUEL BUSTILLO
BELTON, Texas — The retired Army colonel hired to represent the alleged Fort Hood gunman has handled the defense in several high-profile military cases and has a national reputation for successfully defending soldiers being tried on serious charges.
None of John P. Galligan’s clients have been under as much national scrutiny as has Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people last week and wounding dozens at the Fort Hood military base in Texas.
CBS Television NetworkJohn P. Galligan appeared Tuesday on TV after meeting with Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man suspected in the deadly shooting at Fort Hood last week.
Mr. Galligan said in an interview that he is concerned it will be difficult for Maj. Hasan to get a fair trial because of the intense publicity generated by the shooting, as well as by the memorial service attended by President Barack Obama and other dignitaries on Tuesday.
“You’ve got to worry any time you’ve got something this high visibility,” he said in his office in Belton, a small city close to the base. “The fact that we had this assembly of so many senior people, it’s a factor that I’m going to have to consider.”
Mr. Galligan said it was far too early to talk about his strategy in the case, noting that he had been on the case for just 24 hours, after being hired by family members he wouldn’t name. He said he doesn’t yet know what Maj. Hasan will be charged with, where he will be tried, or even whether he will be tried in military or civilian court.
Mr. Galligan would say little about his client, with whom he met for about half an hour Monday, except to say that Maj. Hasan is coherent. Maj. Hasan also has a lawyer appointed by the military, Maj. Chris Martin, who Mr. Galligan said was the senior defense counsel at Fort Hood.
Asked why he would take such a case, Mr. Galligan said, “I’m honored to represent a soldier. They defend us. We need to make sure we defend them.”
As a defense lawyer, Mr. Galligan has persuaded juries in several high-profile cases to grant leniency. In 2005, Mr. Galligan represented military police reservist Willie Brand on charges of assaulting and maiming a shackled prisoner in Afghanistan. Mr. Brand admitted beating the prisoner, who later died of complications from his injuries, and a military jury convicted him. Prosecutors sought a lengthy prison term.
In court, Mr. Galligan called Mr. Brand “a hero” who was only doing what he had been trained to do. That argument carried the day; the jury didn’t order Mr. Brand jailed or discharged, but simply reduced his rank to private.
Mr. Galligan used a similar defense in representing Shawn Martin, an Army captain accused of terrorizing and abusing Iraqi civilians. Mr. Galligan argued that his client was a “dedicated, honorable officer” who had been trying to protect his soldiers by moving aggressively against potential threats.
Mr. Martin was convicted on some counts and sentenced to 45 days in military prison, but he was allowed to retain his rank and remain in the military.
—Ann Davis and Stephanie Simon contributed to this article.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A5