A former Army psychiatrist has been found guilty of the worst mass shooting ever to take place at a US military base, clearing the way for prosecutors to seek the death penalty against him.
By Nick Allen, Los Angeles
9:46PM BST 23 Aug 2013
Major Nidal Hasan, 42, was convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 of premeditated attempted murder in a court martial at Fort Hood, Texas, where he went on a rampage on Nov 5, 2009, gunning down unarmed soldiers waiting for vaccinations ahead of their deployment to Afghanistan.
The jury of 13, consisting of nine colonels, three lieutenant colonels and one major, gave unanimous verdicts after deliberating for six hours following a two week trial.
Hasan stroked his beard and stared impassively at the female colonel who read the verdicts while victims’ families cried and hugged each other.
Major Nidal Hassan in court Photo: BRIGITTE WOOSLEY/REUTERS. A sentencing hearing will begin on Monday. If Hasan is sentenced to death it would be by lethal injection.
At the outset of the court martial Hasan, who is paralysed and in a wheelchair after being shot himself during the massacre, had declared “I am the shooter,” and that he was a soldier who had “switched sides” in what he considered a US war on Islam.
He then represented himself in court but did not give evidence, declining to properly cross examine prosecution witnesses, calling no witnesses of his own, and not making a closing statement.
Lawyers appointed by the court to help him with legal matters suggested that Hasan, a US-born Muslim, had decided to actively seek a death sentence to achieve martyrdom.
He had attempted to plead guilty to the charges, but under the US military code defendants are not allowed to plead guilty in capital punishment cases.
Hasan submitted only one piece of evidence, an evaluation by his boss three days before the shooting which said he was an “outstanding” officer who should be promoted.
If he receives the death sentence it is likely to be delayed. The last man to be executed in the US military justice system was Private John Bennett, who was hanged in 1961 for the rape of an 11-year-old.
Over the last three decades appeals courts have overturned 12 of the 16 death sentences handed down by military juries. There are currently only four prisoners on the military’s death row in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In previous statements to the media Hasan, who described himself as a “soldier of Allah,” said he carried out the attack to protect Taliban insurgents from American soldiers in Afghanistan. Shortly before the shooting he had himself been told he was about to be deployed to Afghanistan.
On his computer investigators found internet searches for “jihad” and an article about Taliban leaders urging attacks on Americans.
Hasan had been in email communication with Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born Islamist cleric killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, but the judge did not allow those emails to be used in evidence.
Prosecutors described how Hasan prepared for the attack by giving away his possessions and studied the layout of a medical building. He picked Nov 5, 2009 because it was when the units he was scheduled to deploy with were due to be in the medical building for vaccinations.
He put tissues in his pockets to muffle the jingling sound of 420 rounds of ammunition and entered a waiting room packed with soldiers, telling a civilian woman to leave before shouting “Allahu akbar” and opening fire with a laser-sighted handgun, turning the room into a “personal kill zone,” the court heard.
Colonel Steve Henricks, a military prosecutor, told the court: “He did not want to deploy, and he came to believe he had a jihad duty to kill as many soldiers as possible.”
An FBI video of the aftermath, showing bodies and blood on the floor, was shown to the court and left some of the victims’ relatives in tears.
A total of 89 witnesses, including many of the wounded, gave sometimes harrowing evidence against Hasan. They included retired Staff Sergeant Alonzo Lunsford, 46, who was shot seven times and left blind in his left eye. The court also heard how another soldier, Specialist. Frederick Greene, 29, died after being shot 12 times as he tried to charge at Hasan.