Accused Fort Hood Gunman May Not Put On A Defense

By: AP/CBS, Posted by Chris Fisher
By: AP/CBS, Posted by Chris Fisher

FORT HOOD, TEXAS (CBS) -- Maj. Nidal Hasan will have the opportunity to present a defense Wednesday in his trial for the 2009 shooting rampage that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded at the Fort Hood military base in Texas.

On Tuesday, the prosecution rested after presenting testimony from 89 witnesses over 11 days.

It is unclear whether Hasan, who admitted in his opening statement that he committed the shooting, will present any witnesses of his own.

In court Tuesday, Judge (Col.) Tara Osborn reviewed Hasan's witness list and Hasan told the court he does not wish to have Dr. Lewis Rambo, a religious conversion expert, testify on his behalf. Judge Osborn ordered that Rambo be present for "a face-to-face conversation" and in the event Hasan changes his mind.

Hasan has previously argued that he was acting in defense of others when he went on a shooting rampage in November 2009. He argues that he sought to protect the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the leadership of the Taliban, including Mullah Mohammad Omar.

If Hasan chooses not to present any witnesses in his defense, the trial will move to closing arguments. The case will ultimately be decided by a panel of 13 senior Army officers, and the court-martial proceeding has been authorized to consider the death penalty.

During trial on Tuesday, the prosecution presented testimony from five witnesses including two who testified that Hasan was reluctant to deploy. Dr. Tonya Kozminski testified that Hasan's said if he was made to deploy, "They will pay."

Maj. Dr. Anthony Bonfiglio, a psychiatrist who studied with Hasan, testified that Hasan had requested a fellowship in an effort to delay his deployment by two years.

On Monday, FBI Special Agent Charles Cox testified on what he found during a forensic search of a computer seized in the Hasan's apartment.

Cox indicated that the computer belonged to Hasan and that several Internet searches had been conducted on the computer for "killing of innocent persons," "jihad," "laser sites," "Afghanistan," "Taliban" and "5.7 x .28 caliber ammunition."

The jury panel must unanimously convict Hasan of murder to sentence him to death, but even a unanimous death penalty conviction would likely face years, if not decades, of appeals.

It has been more than 50 years since the U.S. military executed a U.S. service member. Army Private First Class John A. Bennett was the last service member to be put to death, on April 13, 1961, after being convicted of the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old girl.

In 1983, the Armed Forces Court of Appeals ruled that military capital punishment was unconstitutional, but it was reinstated in 1984 when President Reagan signed an executive order adopting new rules for capital courts-martial. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 16 military death penalty convictions since 1984, but 11 of those sentences have been overturned. The remaining five service members remain on death row.

CBS News' Paula Reid is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.


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