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Major Nidal Hasan Rests Case Without Providing Any Defense

Major Nidal Hasan, currently on trial for the murder and wounding of dozens of American soldiers at Fort Hood, has declined to put on any defense case at all:

KILLEEN, Tex. — Months after deciding to act as his own lawyer, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan declined to present a defense in his military trial on Wednesday, passing up an opportunity to counter hundreds of witnesses and pieces of evidence prosecutors have used to persuade a jury to find him guilty of murdering and wounding dozens of unarmed soldiers in 2009

As relatives of some of his victims looked on, the judge overseeing his court-martial asked him to proceed Wednesday morning, after Army prosecutors rested their case the day before.

“The defense rests,” Major Hasan told the judge inside the packed Fort Hood courtroom.

The judge dismissed the jury, and later asked Major Hasan if he understood that he had a right to testify if chose to. He said he did. Had he taken the stand and testified, Army prosecutors would have been allowed to cross-examine him. During the sentencing phase, however, Major Hasan could give an unsworn statement, and he would not be subject to cross-examination

Major Hasan, 42, has been charged with 45 counts of murder and attempted murder in a shooting rampage inside a medical deployment center at the Fort Hood base here on Nov. 5, 2009. He admitted to the jury in his opening statement at the start of the trial on Aug. 6 that he was the gunman. According to prosecutors and previous statements Major Hasan has made both in and out of court, he was motivated by two desires – to avoid deployment to Afghanistan and to kill as many soldiers as he could as part of a jihad to protect Muslims from American military aggression.

Major Hasan is the first defendant in a military capital-punishment case to represent himself in modern times. He has made few objections, asked few questions of those testifying and has reached agreements with the prosecution on various issues by signing stipulations. His only defense exhibit admitted into evidence was a portion of an officer evaluation report that showed that he had earned promotion.

At one point, Major Hasan’s Army defense team had prepared to call 59 witnesses. But after Major Hasan released those lawyers and started representing himself, he reduced that list to two witnesses, a defense mitigation specialist and a religious conversion expert. Last week, he told the judge he no longer wished to call the mitigation specialist and on Tuesday, he said he did not want the other expert to testify. The judge, Col. Tara A. Osborn, ordered prosecutors to bring them to Fort Hood anyway and ensure that they were available, her attempt to make sure their ability to testify does not become an issue should Major Hasan appeal.

The jury has not heard Major Hasan discuss the previous theory he put forward as a defense – his claim that he committed the shootings to protect Taliban leaders from American soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. The judge ruled that his defense had no legal merit, and forbade him from presenting evidence of it to the jury.

“I think Hasan realized early on that once his distorted theory of defense was rejected, he had nothing to present or offer,” said Geoffrey S. Corn, a former Army prosecutor who is a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. “I also think that he may be trying to manifest his disdain for both the Army and the military justice system, not in a belligerent manner, but by functionally boycotting the process.”

On Wednesday, the judge told the jury to return on Thursday, when it will hear closing arguments and be given instructions on the charges before deliberation. The central question has not been whether the jury will find him guilty but whether it will unanimously vote for the death penalty. If one member of the 13-member jury disagrees on a death sentence, then Major Hasan will receive a sentence of life in prison.

Failing to present any defense case at all in a capital murder case is highly unusual, and it would be even more unusual should Hasan also decline to put any evidence on during the sentencing phase. At this point, it seems beyond question that he will be convicted and that he’s likely to be sentenced to death, but the events surrounding this trial are likely to be the subject of appeals for years to come, which is likely why the Judge has taken pains to ensure that Hasan’s rights were protected at every stage of the case.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    Hasan wants to be a martyr for his cause. What part of that don’t we understand?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. Tyrell says:

    How much tax payers’ money has been spent on this terrorist’s defense, including $300,000 daily helicopter rides?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. rudderpedals says:

    Is there discretion for the court to set a jury death recommendation aside to sentence him to life or is the court bound by the jury’s decision to impose the death sentence?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. C. Clavin says:

    “…$300,000 daily helicopter rides…”

    Yeah…I’d need to see a link on that one…’cause unless Gisele is on board…I ain’t buying it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    This has been an odd case. The presiding officer forbid the prosecution from mentioning the term “Jihad,” even though Hassan himself proclaimed that was his motive. And they also excluded Hassan’s correspondence with Anwar Al-Awlaki, the Al Qaeda member and American citizen that Obama ordered assassinated by drone strike.

    The presiding officer keeps the prosecution from presenting the proclaimed motive for the shooting, the defendant doesn’t even bother trying to mount a defense. So much for an examination of the facts…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  6. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: So you’re prepared to admit that Al-Awaki was in Al Qaeda now………..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    I don’t know why this is so complicated for you, Pearce. He’s al-Qaeda when Jenos wants him to be, and not when he doesn’t. Don’t you get it? Obama = Evil. All facts must serve that premise. All contradictory facts are not facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. Ernieyeball says:

    @Tyrell: Don’t know what the final bill will be for Hasan. But the $13,800,000 spent in 1997 ($27,500,000 in today’s $$) to convict and execute the
    Red, White and Blue child murdering terrorist pig Timothy McVeigh was worth every penny.

    The defense of Timothy J. McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing case cost taxpayers $13.8 million. Judge Richard P. Matsch of Federal District Court, who presided over Mr. McVeigh’s trial in Denver, released the figures. Mr. McVeigh employed 19 lawyers. He was executed on June 11. Mindy Sink (NYT)
    The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 450 others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce: So you’re prepared to admit that Al-Awaki was in Al Qaeda now………..

    I don’t recall ever denying that Awlaki was a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda in good standing at the time of his demise. Hell, I remember being rather happy that he’d been blowed up real good.

    But it still remains a fact that he was an American citizen who had never been formally charged with a single crime when he was ordered killed without even an attempt to bring him to trial. And his underage son’s death, too, was also justified.

    It’s just the justifications for those deaths were denounced as monstrous and totally unacceptable and un-American when it was a Republican in the White House. But change that little detail, and suddenly the monstrous is simply sound policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Ernieyeball: McVeigh was a civilian, tried in federal court. Hasan is an officer in the armed forces, tried by court martial. The cost differences are entirely understandable.

    But when you add up the cost of Hasan’s trial, factor in all his accumulated pay for the past four years. McVeigh wasn’t on the federal payroll when he carried out his bombing, through his arrest and trial.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  11. Ernieyeball says:

    How much tax payers’ money has been spent on this terrorist’s defense,..

    Just to be clear, so others do not misunderstand, this was the remark I was commenting on.
    Not something else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. mantis says:

    But it still remains a fact that he was an American citizen who had never been formally charged with a single crime when he was ordered killed without even an attempt to bring him to trial.

    An American can still be an enemy combatant. Shall we assume you have changed your positions on the war on terror (effective January 2008)?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mantis: Cockroach, I said that I never had a problem with Awlaki getting his ass blown to Allah. I keep bringing up his unindicted status here because it is exactly the kind of thing that was considered a horrible war crime until Obama became president by the left.

    So, what was heinous for Bush to even consider is laudable when Obama does it. That is a very, very common theme, I’ve noticed. Hell, I could put up a hefty list just listing the things that Senator Obama denounced that President Obama has done. But the last time I used that allegory, someone got all whiny.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  14. Ernieyeball says:

    (my apologies to all Sus domesticus basking in their slop pens across the fruited plain)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I keep bringing up his unindicted status here because it is exactly the kind of thing that was considered a horrible war crime until Obama became president by the left.

    Nice try. I remember John Kerry promising to find terrorists and kill them back in 04. The “left” were so mad at him that they gave him the nomination for president.

    Those “war crimes” you’re thinking of….that was about torture. It was Abu Ghraib. It was extraordinary rendition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Hell, I could put up a hefty list just listing the things that Senator Obama denounced that President Obama has done. But the last time I used that allegory, someone got all whiny.

    Allegory?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce: Allegory, metaphor, analogy — it’s been a long couple of days. I meant the conceit where one contrasts the words of Barack Obama when he was a senator to the actions of Barack Obama as president. Two ready examples are the denunciations of the detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay and raising the debt ceiling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  18. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I meant the conceit where one contrasts the words of Barack Obama when he was a senator to the actions of Barack Obama as president.

    Yes, yes. Thereby implying that one of these Obamas is the more authentic one and that the folks who voted for him were bamboozled somehow.

    And yet no matter how hard you pound on that nail, it’s not being driven in. Is it because this is a fundamentally unsound argument? Or because you’re not putting enough elbow grease on the hammer?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. bill says:

    maybe they could hold him in huntsville- genpop while the appeals go through? that would be nice, and save us a lot of money- well those of us who actually pay taxes that is. not like it’ll happen, just a happy thought.

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  20. ernieyeball says:

    “I meant the conceit where one contrasts the words of Barack Obama when he was a senator to the actions of Barack Obama as president.”

    President FORD: When I was a member of the House for 25 and a half years, I used to look at the president and the vice president – those dictators at the other end, how can they be so arbitrary and difficult? Then when you shift from the legislating to the executive branch of the government, and you look at the Congress and say, why are all of those House and Senate members so irresponsible?

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6684841

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. ernieyeball says:

    Edit function on Safari!!!

    Zip A Dee Do Dah!!!

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