Military Jury Convicts Nidal Hasan On All Counts
A military jury at Fort Hood has convicted Major Nidal Hasan on all the charges against him arising out of his 2009 shooting spree:
KILLEEN, Tex. — A military jury on Friday found Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan guilty of carrying out the largest mass murder at a military installation in American history.
The verdict, delivered by 13 senior Army officers, came 17 days after Major Hasan’s court-martial began on Aug. 6, and nearly four years after the day in November 2009 that Major Hasan killed and wounded dozens of unarmed soldiers at a medical deployment center at Fort Hood here.
Major Hasan, a psychiatrist who turned on the very soldiers he devoted much of his 15-year military career to helping, sat in a wheelchair in combat fatigues, an American flag patch on his upper right sleeve. Inside a Fort Hood courtroom filled with soldiers, military police and the relatives of those he killed, but none of his own family members, he had no visible reaction and sat motionless as the jury foreman, a female Army colonel, stood and read the unanimous verdict.
The jury of nine colonels, three lieutenant colonels and one major deliberated for about six hours over two days before finding him guilty of 45 counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder, one count for each of the 13 people he killed and the 32 he wounded or shot at. All the jurors were combat veterans, and throughout the trial they heard the prosecution’s nearly 90 witnesses describe how Major Hasan opened fire at the medical processing building with a semiautomatic pistol on Nov. 5, 2009, using the green and red laser sights under the barrel to target uniformed soldiers but avoid those in civilian clothes or medical scrubs.
He and prosecutors said his mission was to kill as many soldiers as he could as part of a jihad to protect “my Muslim brothers” from American soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. A year after the shooting, he told a military mental health panel that he wished he had died in the attack so he could have become a martyr. He expressed no remorse for his actions, only regret that he was paralyzed by police officers who shot him in ending the attack.
The verdict now opens the sentencing phase of the court-martial, with the 13 officers deciding whether to sentence Major Hasan to die by lethal injection. He could become the first American soldier in 52 years to be executed in the military’s death chamber at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. One of the reasons capital punishment in the military has been so rare is that execution of a soldier requires presidential approval.
If even one member of the jury votes against death, Major Hasan will be sentenced to life in prison. The judge ordered the jury and both sides to return to court on Monday, when the sentencing phase will begin and when relatives of those Major Hasan killed will testify about the impact the murders had on their lives.
The verdict doesn’t really come as a surprise given the evidence against Hasan, and especially considering the fact that he declined to put on any evidence in his defense. At this point, though, it’s unclear what he will do during the sentencing phase. Many courtroom observers expect that he may use this phase of the proceedings to put forward the arguments that he had made during his opening statement when he stated that he was killing American soldiers in an effort to “protect” Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. This isn’t a valid defense, of course, and one would think that it would make the jury more likely to impose a death sentence.