A military court has ruled unanimously that US Army Maj. Nidal Hasan should receive the death penalty by lethal injection for an attack that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
The Army psychiatrist never denied carrying out the shooting spree – the worst such attack on a US military base and the worst terrorist attack since 9/11. All but one of those killed was a soldier, including a pregnant private.
“The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter,” Major Hasan said during his trial. He did it, the US-born Muslim said in pretrial proceedings, to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression. The attack came just a month before he and other Fort Hood soldiers in his unit were to deploy to Afghanistan. The victims of Hasan’s rampage were gathered in a crowded readiness center in preparation for their deployment.
If Hasan had ever intended to use his trial as a forum for political statements or as an attempt to portray himself as a religious martyr – he ignored his court-appointed backup attorneys and chose to represent himself – that did not happen once the proceedings were underway.
He barely spoke during the evidence and sentencing portions of the three-week trial, nor did he call any witnesses or make any closing statement other than to say, “The defense rests.”
That left it to prosecutors to provide what at times were dramatic and heart-wrenching statements from Hasan’s surviving shooting victims, family members of those killed, and others.
“You should not punish him for his religion. You should punish him for his hate,” lead prosecutor Col. Mike Mulligan told the military jury, which consisted of Hasan’s superior officers. “You should punish him for his actions he took in the name of his religion – not his religion.”
“He will never be a martyr,” Colonel Mulligan said. “He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer."
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Hasan was convicted of 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 32 specifications of attempted premeditated murder.
Hasan will now be taken to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. It took the 13-member jury less than three hours to decide Hasan’s fate.
Before an execution date is set, Hasan’s death sentence will face years, if not decades, of appeals.
It will need to be affirmed by Fort Hood's convening authority (an Army general who will review the case and trial proceedings with the option of reducing Hasan’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole), which will prompt automatic appeals at two military courts for the Army and then the armed forces, Victor Hansen, a military law expert at the New England School of Law, told the Associated Press.
If those fail, Hasan could ask the US Supreme Court to review his case and file motions in federal court. The president must eventually approve a military death sentence.
Many death row inmates have had their sentences overturned on appeal, and no active-duty soldier has been executed in the military system since 1961, when former President Eisenhower signed the execution by hanging order for a US Army private convicted of the rape and attempted murder of a young girl in Austria.
As part of his punishment, Hasan forfeits all military pay and benefits and is formally dismissed from the Army while awaiting execution. Hasan was shot in the back by officers responding to the shootings at Fort Hood. He is paralyzed from the waist down, confined to a wheelchair.
• This report includes material from the Associated Press.