Military Panel Recommends Death For Hasan In Fort Hood Shootings

By: From CNN.com
By: From CNN.com


FORT HOOD, Texas (CNN) -- A military jury on Wednesday recommended the death penalty for convicted Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, for the 2009 massacre on post that left 13 people dead and 32 others wounded.

The 13-member panel spent less than two hours deliberating privately, and the president -- or forewoman-- announced the finding in open court with a clear voice, that Hasan "be put to death."

The convicted killer said nothing as the decision was announced, and had appeared emotionless earlier in the morning when dramatic closing arguments in the sentencing phase were held without his participation.

Hasan serves as his own attorney and his refusal to mount a vigorous defense, or to offer any mitigating evidence to blunt a capital sentence, may have made the panel's unanimous decision less complicated or agonizing.

The judge quickly accepted the verdict; the matter now goes to the "convening authority" -- an Army general who will review the four-week court-martial proceedings and make the binding decision whether to accept the guilty verdict and capital sentence.

It is a process that could take a few more months, and only then will the verdicts become official. The convening authority has the option of reducing the sentence to life in prison without parole. The defendant will then have the right to appeal through the military justice system.

The Army psychiatrist will at some point be transferred to military death row in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to join five other condemned prisoners. The president of the United States would sign any death warrant, and the execution would take place at a federal correctional facility in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The American-born man of Palestinian descent turned and looked at the panel president as she read the sentence, then moved to face the judge. There was no reaction from him.

There were also no outbursts from family members gathered in the courtroom. Some held hands, and brief embraces and smiles followed the announcement. Family of two of the victims addressed reporters a few hundred yards from the courthouse.

"Nidal Hasan is a coward and an unrepentant murderer," said Gale Hunt, mother of Jason "JD" Hunt. She urged the public now to focus on the wounded and the victim families, including the memory of her son. "He was a very kind and thoughtful person," she said.

"The best thing for that man is to be forgotten," said Kerry Cahill, daughter of Michael Cahill, 62, the only civilian killed in the attacks. Kerry said many of the family members had met over the weekend as the court-martial drew to a close, sharing their memories and emotional pain with one another. "We are a family," she said.

The sentencing ends a nearly four-year legal process that strained the emotions of survivors and family members of the victims.

They spoke on the bench earlier in the week during the sentencing phase, describing their grief and loss. An Army prosecutor earlier Wednesday summarized the case, offering personal vignettes of all 13 victims killed and urging the panel to ignore Hasan's earlier statement that he was willing to die in custody as a "martyr" for his faith.

"He will never be a martyr, because he has nothing to give," Col. Michael Mulligan said in an even voice. "He is a criminal, a cold-blooded murderer. He is not giving his life; we are taking his life."

"You should not punish him for his religion, you should punish him for his crimes," he added.

Inside the courtroom, widows and mothers wiped tears from their eyes throughout the oral presentation. Hasan remained stoic as usual, looking mainly at photos of victims on his monitor screen during closing, occasionally glancing at Mulligan addressing the panel.

He stroked his beard and wiped his nose repeatedly with a tissue.

Outside of brief comments at the beginning of the court-martial four weeks ago, where he admitted being the lone gunman, the defendant has not put on much of a case.

That left the government alone Wednesday to summarize the incident and the impact on the survivors, families of victims, and Fort Hood community.

"Death. He was trained as doctor to save lives, but on 5 November 2009, he only dealt in death," Mulligan said. The prosecutor tied the narrative together with a unifying theme: the separate teams of two officers in Class-A uniforms who knocked on the doors of the victim's families across the country to deliver the sad news.

Mulligan also recounted graphic details of the carnage inside Station 13, Room 42003 of the medical readiness center, where the victims were preparing for their military deployments overseas.

Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55, was shot four times and, from her nursing training, knew she was dying from internal bleeding. "She had just a few minutes to pass on one final message: 'Tell my family I love them.' "

For the widow of Spc. Jason Hunt, the subsequent emotional pain has been tough. "Grief is a personal emotion," Mulligan said. "Hers led her to the depths of suicide and back." Jennifer Hunt told the panel Monday she is raising her three children alone.

Hasan had indicated he wanted his service record, his lack of a previous criminal record and his psychological evaluations kept under wraps. Speaking in a clear voice from his wheelchair, Hasan dismissed the ex parte actions by his "overzealous defense counsel."

After weeks of mostly silence in his defense, Hasan had little more to say this week in the capital sentencing phase of his court-martial, telling the jury panel Tuesday three short words: "The defense rests."

His brief remarks produced a gasp in the courtroom.

The panel of senior officers last week convicted the defendant on all counts of premeditated murder from the incident at the deployment processing center on this sprawling U.S. Army base. Hasan was wounded in the attacks and remains a paraplegic.


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