Nidal Hasan Trial To Begin Today
The trial of Major Nidal Hasan, the man accused of killing 13 at Ford Hood, Texas some four years ago, begins today:
KILLEEN, Tex. — Nearly four years after 13 people were killed and 32 others wounded in a Fort Hood shooting spree, the long-delayed court-martial of Maj. Nidal M. Hasan opened Tuesday with a prosecutor’s accusation that the former Army psychiatrist planned to “kill as many soldiers as he could.”
Hasan, a U.S.-born Muslim, is accused of carrying out one of the worst mass killings in U.S. history by firing more than 100 rounds during a seven-minute rampage at the Army installation in central Texas on Nov. 5, 2009.
He has admitted to carrying out the attack but is prohibited by military law from entering a guilty plea because military prosecutors are pursuing the death sentence.
A prosecutor in the case, Col. Steve Henricks, told a jury of 13 military officers that Hasan picked the date of the attack for a reason and that he intended to gun down as many fellow soldiers as possible, the Associated Press reported.
The 42-year-old, who is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by Army civilian police, is representing himself and could cross-examine his alleged victims.
The trial, which was initially scheduled to begin more than 18 months ago, has been repeatedly delayed by legal issues.
The judge first appointed to preside over the high-profile case was removed by the military’s highest court early last year after it ruled that he had not appeared impartial.
Hasan also twice dismissed his legal team. He fought to represent himself and to keep his beard, which he says is an expression of his faith, in defiance of military regulations.
The psychiatrist had planned to argue that his actions were intended to save the lives of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, but a judge in June ruled that he could not use a “defense of others” argument because there was no immediate threat from soldiers at Fort Hood.
Death sentences are rare in the military justice system, and the case is taking place amid tight security, with Hasan flown in by helicopter from a local jail each day.
The military has not executed a service member since 1961, when a private was hanged at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for raping an 11-year-old girl. In recent years, several death sentences have been commuted on appeal to life without parole, although five people remain on military death row, according to AP. As commander in chief, the president is required to sign off on a death sentence.
For Hasan to be convicted of murder, the 13-member panel of officers must decide unanimously that he is guilty. At a final pretrial hearing Monday, the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, indicated that the case is expected to last at least a month.
There’s no serious doubt, of course, about Hasan’s guilt in this case. The only real question is whether he’ll end up getting sentenced to death, or will end up spending the rest of his life in a military prison. Getting there, though, has already been a long journey and the remaining month or so is likely to be difficult given the fact that he is representing himself and, theoretically, could end up cross-examining the people that he shot.