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Ft. Hood jury resumes deliberations in Nidal Malik Hasan case

August 23, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • If convicted, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan could face the death penalty.
If convicted, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan could face the death penalty. (Bell County Sheriff's Department )

FT. HOOD, Texas — A military jury enters its second day of deliberations Friday in the murder case of Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, charged in connection with a mass shooting here four years ago that killed 13 people and wounded dozens more.

Hasan, 42, faces 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

The Army psychiatrist, who represented himself at trial, admitted to the shooting in his opening statement and did little to challenge prosecutors. He called no witnesses, rarely cross-examined prosecution witnesses, refused to make a closing argument and submitted a single piece of evidence: his glowing performance evaluation, finalized one day before the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage. 

Hasan tried to argue that he attacked deploying soldiers to prevent them from harming Taliban leaders overseas, where Americans were fighting an “illegal war.” But the military judge, Col. Tara Osborn, refused to permit that legal strategy.

By contrast, prosecutors meticulously built their case over the course of about two weeks, calling nearly 90 witnesses and submitting more than 700 pieces of evidence.

During closing arguments Thursday, one of the military prosecutors spent more than an hour reviewing evidence of premeditation for jurors: that Hasan bought guns equipped with laser sights and high-capacity magazines well in advance of the attack, practiced on human-shaped targets, cased the medical processing center he planned to target, searched the Internet for information about the Taliban and shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” in Arabic before opening fire.

“The evidence was overwhelming,” said Geoffrey Corn, a former military prosecutor turned professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston.

John Galligan, Hasan’s civil attorney and a former military judge, has complained that the trial became a “sham” when Hasan was barred from mounting his defense and left with no case to argue.

Which left some observers wondering: What’s taking the jury so long?

Corn speculated that the high-ranking group may be taking time to thoroughly review the evidence before voting on each charge, once, by secret ballot.

The jury includes 13 officers, all of Hasan’s rank or higher: nine colonels, three lieutenant colonels and a major. All but two have served in command positions. Some graduated from the Army War College, the Air War College, West Point and Georgetown University’s business school. The most senior colonel — who is the sole African American juror and one of two women — serves as the jury’s president, or foreman, and will present the verdict.

If Hasan is convicted of premeditated murder by a unanimous vote of the jury and of another murder count by at least nine jurors, he could be sentenced to death.

Late Thursday, the jury made a telling request.

They asked to review testimony by Ft. Hood police Senior Sgt. Mark Todd, who exchanged gunfire with Hasan, eventually shooting and subduing him. Hasan is charged with shooting at Todd, and it appeared jurors wanted to double check the evidence for one of the more complicated charges, as Corn had suggested they might.

A prosecutor read the testimony aloud in court. Todd described being called to respond to a shooting at the medical processing building, locating the shooter, challenging him and returning fire.

“The shooter pointed at me and shot at me again,” he testified.

When the prosecutor finished reading, Osborn asked the jury: “Does that answer your question? Apparently so."

Then the jury left for the night. Deliberations resume Friday morning.


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