A military jury convicted a US Army psychiatrist in the deadly 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, making him eligible for the death penalty in the shocking assault against US troops.
There was never any doubt that Army Major Nidal Hasan was the gunman. He acknowledged to the jury that he was the one who pulled the trigger on fellow soldiers as they prepared to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded.
Hasan, who said he opened fire on fellow soldiers to protect Muslim insurgents abroad from US aggression, did not react to the verdict, as the jurors announced their findings on Friday.
Because Hasan never denied his actions, the court-martial was always less about a conviction than it was about ensuring he received the death penalty. From the beginning of the case, the US federal government has sought to execute Hasan, believing that any sentence short of a lethal injection would deprive the military and the families of the dead of the justice they have sought for nearly four years.
The unanimous decision on all 13 counts of premeditated murder made Hasan eligible for execution in the sentencing phase that begins tomorrow.
The jurors must all agree to give Hasan the death penalty before he can be sent to the military’s death row, which has just five other prisoners. If they do not agree, the 42-year-old could get life in prison.
Hasan said he planned to continue representing himself in the sentencing phase, even though military judge Colonel Tara Osborn told him it was unwise to do so.
Hasan, a US-born Muslim, said the attack was a jihad against the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He bristled when Osborn suggested the shooting rampage could have been avoided were it not for a spontaneous flash of anger.
“It wasn’t done under the heat of sudden passion,” Hasan said before jurors began deliberating. “There was adequate provocation — that these were deploying soldiers that were going to engage in an illegal war.”
All but one of the dead were soldiers, including a pregnant private who curled on the floor and pleaded for her baby’s life.
John Galligan, Hasan’s former lead attorney, said Hasan called him to make sure he heard the verdict, and the pair planned to meet later.
Galligan said the jury did not hear all the facts because the judge refused to allow evidence that helped explain Hasan’s actions.
“Right or wrong, strong or weak, the facts are the facts,” he said. “The jury we heard from only got half the facts,” he said.
Hasan was left paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in the back by one of the Fort Hood police officers.
The sentencing phase is expected to begin with more testimony from survivors of the attack inside a US Army medical center, where soldiers were waiting in long lines to receive immunizations and medical clearance for deployment.
Hasan began the trial by telling jurors he was the gunman. However, he said little else over the next three weeks, which convinced his court-appointed standby lawyers that Hasan’s only goal was to get a death sentence.
The US military called nearly 90 witnesses during the trial, but Hasan rested his case without calling a single person to testify in his defense and made no closing argument.
However, he leaked documents to journalists that showed him telling mental health workers he could “still be a martyr” if executed.
In court, Hasan never played the role of an angry extremist. He did not get agitated or raise his voice. He addressed Osborn as “ma’am” and occasionally whispered “thank you” when prosecutors handed him bottles filled with bullet fragments removed from the victims.