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Army colonel recommends trial, death penalty in Fort Hood shooting

Col. James L. Pohl, who oversaw Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's recent military court hearing, reportedly makes an initial recommendation that Hasan be court-martialed on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.

November 18, 2010|By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times

The investigating officer in the mass shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas, last year has recommended that an Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 face a court-martial and the death penalty.

Col. James L. Pohl, who presided at a military hearing for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, recommended that the American-born Muslim be court-martialed on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Citing "an aggravating factor," he recommended that any conviction carry a death sentence, the Army said in a statement.

Pohl's report on the case will go to an Army colonel at Ft. Hood who, acting as the court-martial's convening authority, will file his own report to the base commander. That commander will make the final decisions on whether Hasan is tried and whether he will face the death penalty.

The Nov. 5, 2009, rampage at a base processing center for soldiers preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan was the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military base.

Fifty-six prosecution witnesses testified at a recent Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian preliminary hearing and determines whether there is evidence to support charges. Several soldiers wounded in the attack said that Hasan opened fire on fellow soldiers after shouting "Allahu Akbar" — Arabic for "God is great."

The witnesses said Hasan fired a laser-guided semiautomatic pistol at soldiers who lay wounded and bleeding. Several said Hasan, who was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, paused only to reload his pistol.

More than 200 rounds were fired before a police officer shot Hasan and ended the rampage.

Hasan, 40, who was paralyzed from the chest down by the officer's bullets, attended the hearings in a wheelchair. He did not testify, and his lawyers did not put on testimony or witnesses.

John P. Galligan, Hasan's civilian attorney, told the Associated Press that he received Pohl's report Wednesday and planned to file objections.

"I doubt it will matter because the full weight of the Army is behind this case," Galligan said.

Witnesses testified that Hasan had bought the most sophisticated semiautomatic pistol available at a local gun store several weeks before the shootings. A gun range owner said Hasan practiced with the weapon by firing at human silhouette targets, rather than bull's-eyes, and aimed for the chests and heads.

david.zucchino@latimes.com

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