A military jury sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, handing the Army psychiatrist the ultimate punishment after a trial in which he seemed to be courting martyrdom. (Aug. 28) AP
FORT HOOD, Texas — Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist convicted in the November 2009 shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 31 wounded, was sentenced to death Wednesday by a military jury.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, saying Hasan’s murderous rampage at the sprawling military base here left tragic and devastating loss for victims and loved ones.
Hasan, 42, was convicted last week on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder. He appeared expressionless upon hearing the verdict, which came less than two hours of deliberations.
The death sentence required a unanimous verdict by the jury of 13 military officers. At minimum, Hasan faced life imprisonment. Still, while Hasan could be the first serviceman executed by the military since 1961, the appellate process could take years.
Before an execution date is set, there will be automatic appeals at military courts for the Army and the armed forces, said Victor Hansen, a military law expert at the New England School of Law. Hasan could also ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case and file motions in federal court. Moreover, the president must eventually sign off on a military death sentence, which would be carried out by lethal injection.
Family members of Hasan’s victims supported the sentence.
“Today a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders,” said Joleen Cahill, whose husband, Michael Cahill, had retired from the military and was working as a civilian employee at Fort Hood. He was killed when he tried to subdue Hasan. “The (jury) gave him justice and I agree with that justice.”
In seeking capital punishment, lead prosecutor Col. Mike Mulligan earlier recounted each emotional and powerful story of victims whose lives were cut short.
“There’s a price to be paid for the mass murder he perpetrated on 5 November — for the lives he horrifically changed and for the pain and sorrow he wrought,” Mulligan said.
“These murderous attacks left enormous carnage: 13 dead, eight widows. One widower. 12 minor children without a father, 18 parents lost children. 30 soldiers wounded. One civilian police officer. Their loss, each family — tragic, difficult and different. For some, death was almost instantaneous. So quick, so lethal they never moved from their chair,” Mulligan said.
Hasan, a Virginia-born Muslim who acted as his own attorney, admitted he was responsible for the shootings at his trial. He had previously said he was a “soldier of Allah,” deserved martyrdom and that his attack was designed to protect Muslim insurgents abroad.
But in seeking the death penalty, Mulligan dismissed Hasan’s intent.
“This is his debt to society. It is not a charitable act. He is not now and never will be a martyr. He is a criminal. He is a cold blooded murderer. On 5 November, he did not leave this earth. He remained to pay a price. He remained to pay a debt. The debt he owes is his life,” Mulligan said.
Hasan did not address the jury.
“I have no closing statement,” said Hasan, who remains paralyzed from the waist down after he was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with a civilian police officer during the 2009 base shootings.
Mulligan said earlier that while Hasan’s acts were religiously motivated, jurors shouldn’t punish him for being a Muslim.
“History is replete with death in the name of religion. The acts of 5 November were religiously motivated. You should not punish him for his religion,” Mulligan told jurors. “You should punish him for his hate. You should punish him for the action he took in the name of his religion, not for his religion.”