Fort Hood trial: Nidal Hasan rests his defense with no witnesses, no testimony
The court-martial for Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009, is now headed for closing arguments, the eventual verdict, and, if he’s found guilty, sentencing.
Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist whom the US military says killed 13 fellow soldiers in a brutal attack at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009, offered no defense in his defense on Wednesday, in essence displaying a willingness to die as a martyr for the cause of radical Islam.Skip to next paragraph
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The 12th day of Hasan’s court-martial inside a heavily fortified compound in Killeen, Texas, ended early Wednesday, as a much-anticipated statement from Hasan became a three-word anticlimax: “The defense rests.” The Army major, who is representing himself, had called no witnesses to the stand, and he also declined to testify himself.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, quickly ended the day’s session, setting the stage for closing arguments, the eventual verdict, and, if he’s found guilty, sentencing.
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The trial was expected to take months, but Hasan barely spoke as military prosecutors put five dozen witnesses on the stand. Those witnesses included many soldiers who were there the day the prosecution says that Hasan, yelling “Allah is great” in Arabic, fired at least 200 shots into a crowded soldier readiness center.
Like Hasan, the soldiers were getting ready for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq. Hasan’s only stated defense, which was not allowed by the judge, was that he acted in defense of Islamic soldiers, the Taliban. He later said in court that he “switched sides” in the war on terror.
Terror-law experts have anticipated some kind of outburst from Hasan, who said in his opening statement that the evidence will show “I am the shooter.” That phrase helped prompt his appointed attorneys to demand to be removed from the case, because they couldn’t, in good moral conscience, support a defendant with a death wish. (Even though Hasan is representing himself, he still has attorneys on the sidelines.)
The Army is seeking to execute Hasan if he is found guilty by a jury of higher-ranking officers. Hasan had told investigators that he will be a martyr even if the Army executes him, according to a 2010 Army report that was released last week.
Some law professors have speculated that Hasan’s lack of a defense is in itself a defense: Those who sentence him may not be willing to give him what he purportedly wants.
Hasan may still “lay out his case, say he’s justified in what he did, that he would do it again, and that he welcomes death,” says Jeffrey Addicott, a conservative terrorism law expert at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. “The jury may then be saying, ‘Let’s not give him what he wants,’ almost like reverse psychology. He may avoid the death penalty by seeking the death penalty.”