Nidal Hasan guilty in Fort Hood massacre. Next question: life, or death?
Army Maj. Nidal Hasan was convicted Friday of all charges stemming from 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas, which killed 13 and wounded 30. Hasan has said he wants a martyr's death. Starting Monday, jurors will begin considering that option.
But will the military jury at Hasan’s court-martial give him what he has said he desires – a martyr’s death?
An 11-man, two-woman jury spent six hours deliberating the case that the prosecution had laid before them: that Hasan, a US Army major whose parents were Palestinians, had transformed into a jihadist traitor, carrying out an attack on American soldiers about to depart for the Afghan and Iraq fronts. Jurors will consider his punishment starting Monday, when Hasan may for the first time publicly speak about his actions.
Lawyers for victims of Hasan’s attack immediately called upon the Obama administration “to accept responsibility for the harm done by its political correctness, spin, and cover-up” and amend its classification of Hasan’s attack as an act of “workplace violence.” That designation, they say, has denied their clients Purple Hearts and medical benefits.
While a guilty verdict seemed all but assured – Hasan himself said the evidence would prove he was the shooter – the question still hanging over the proceedings is whether his deadly assault on the base constitutes the first major terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11. President Obama has acknowledged only that Hasan was “inspired by larger notions of violent jihad.”
The immediate decision before the jury is whether to make Hasan the fourth person on military death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., or whether to relegate him to life in military prison. Hasan told a psychiatric review board in 2010 that he believed that being executed by the Army would give him martyrdom status among Islamic jihadists.
Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terror Law in Texas, has said Hasan’s nondefense defense was either a clear attempt at martyrdom or a sly use of reverse psychology, based upon the premise that jurors may balk at giving him what he wants, thus sparing his life.
Hasan, serving as his own attorney, said few words through the short trial, barely raised objections, and seemed resigned to what became, ultimately, what some military law experts have called a “slow plea.”
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, had refused Hasan’s previous guilty plea, and had denied him use of a strategy known as “defense of others” – that is, the Taliban – because there was no evidence that any of the 13 soldiers he killed and 30 other he wounded would ever pose any personal threat to enemy combatants or Taliban leaders.
The few times Hasan did raise glimpses of a defense were during brief remarks that suggested that his actions were honorable and were aimed only at US soldiers, against whom he had “switched sides” and whom he now saw as a legitimate enemy.
The US military has not executed a service member since 1961.