The newly-appointed military judge in the court-martial of accused Fort Hood mass shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan ruled Wednesday that the beard which has delayed his trial for more than half a year is a matter for his chain of command and not a legal issue, a move which may prevent future delays.

Col. Tara Osborn said that she will likely set a new trial date at Hasan's next hearing at the end of February.

At that time she will also rule on whether Hasan can plead guilty – and whether military rules allow her to accept such a plea – a decision that could dramatically alter the contours of the court-martial.

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