Fort Hood suspect tells court he 'switched sides' in America's war
Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009, said the evidence will show 'I am the shooter.' The trial will be important, even if the verdict seems certain.
The US Army on Tuesday began to try one of its own – Maj. Nidal Hasan – for his role in a deadly attack on deployment-ready soldiers at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009. In his opening statement, Major Hasan, who has long sought to declare his guilt, said that "the evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter."Skip to next paragraph
Gallery American Jihadis
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Hasan is accused opening fire at a training center, killing 13 and injuring scores of others. He was shot by a responding police officer, and is now partly paralyzed from that injury.
Though there is little suspense about the final verdict, the trial – which could last months – is important to the military-justice system, to the victims and their families, and to the still-unresolved question of whether the attack was an act of terrorism. The trial's first day made those stakes clear.
RECOMMENDED: Quiz: How much do you know about terrorism?
Army ‘absolutely determined’ to win execution
The US armed services have not carried out an execution since 1961. Eleven of 16 military death-penalty cases during the past 30 years have been overturned, leaving five soldiers at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., still awaiting execution.
Military-justice experts say Col. Tara Osborn, the presiding judge, has gone to great lengths to make sure the verdict and sentence in this trial survive any appeals. For example, in the long run up to the much-delayed trial, Hasan pleaded with the court to let him acknowledge his guilt, but Colonel Osborn, denied that request, given that the prosecution is seeking the death penalty. She's also allowed Hasan to defend himself, giving him wide legal leeway.
“This is one case they’re absolutely determined to [not be brought down on appeal]. Since military capital punishment has been so plagued and riddled with errors, they’re tyring to learn from those mistakes [with the Hasan case], and they’re going to [try to get a conviction] pretty much how long it takes, and whatever resources they take,” David Frakt, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Monitor earlier this summer.
Victims once again face tormentor
The scene at the readiness center was pure terror and mayhem, with unarmed soldiers trying to flee and hide behind desks and tables. Now victims face the prospect of taking the stand to explain what they saw, and then being cross-examined by man on trial for unleashing the fury of bullets against them.