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Ft. Hood jury deliberating whether to impose death penalty on Hasan

August 28, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • In this courtroom sketch, Maj. Nidal Hasan, center, sits before the judge, U.S. Army Col. Tara Osborn, during the sentencing phase of his trial at Ft. Hood, Texas.
In this courtroom sketch, Maj. Nidal Hasan, center, sits before the judge,… (Brigitte Woosley / Associated…)

FT. HOOD, Texas -- Sentencing Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to death for his deadly attack at this central Texas Army post would not elevate him to martyr status, prosecutors told jurors in closing arguments at his sentencing hearing Wednesday.

“He will never be a martyr because he has nothing to give,” the lead military prosecutor, Col. Michael Mulligan, said in closing arguments at Hasan's sentencing hearing. “Do not be fooled. He is not giving his life -- we are taking his life. This is not his gift to God. He is a criminal, a cold-blooded murderer.”

Hasan, 42, an American-born Muslim, was convicted last week of killing 13 and wounding more than 30 in the shooting Nov. 5, 2009.

Hasan faces a possible death sentence. The same jury of 13 officers that convicted him began deliberations Wednesday to decide his sentence.

Hasan, who is represented himself at his sentencing hearing and at trial, declined to make a closing argument Wednesday. He also passed on the opportunity to make a statement at sentencing or submit evidence, including sympathetic evidence prepared by experts he has consulted about religious conversion and death penalty cases.

The jury began deliberating shortly after 11 a.m. Central time, after Mulligan’s closing argument.

Mulligan set out to persuade jurors that an aggravating factor in the case -- multiple murders -- outweighs any mitigating factors, such as Hasan’s military record and medical condition. He was wounded in the shooting,  remains paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

The prosecutor began by reminding jurors of the grisly way Hasan attacked his victims, and the families left behind -- more than a half-dozen widows and a dozen young children. Relatives of the dead looked on from the gallery as prosecutors displayed their photographs on small computer screens in front of the jury and Hasan.

Hasan did not react, except to look down at times, stroking a beard he fought to keep for religious reasons in violation of Army regulations. 

Hasan killed soldiers going to war for the first time, Mulligan said, but also veterans who were returning to battle, or were coming home or retired.  He killed a pregnant woman, shot a female soldier who lay bleeding, and shot a father of three small children, three times, twice  in the head,

Mulligan noted Hasan shot one young soldier a dozen times.

“He chose the time, he chose the place, he chose the victims and he chose the deadliest of shots: to the head,” Mulligan said.

One of the soldiers could be heard dying on a 911 call made from the scene of the shooting that day, a sound played for the jury at trial that Mulligan described Wednesday as “the groan of death.”

He asked the jury to imagine what it was like for several soldiers trapped at the back of that medical building, waiting to die.

“They could surely hear the shots, smell the gunpowder,” he said. “Death was coming.”

Those soldiers died nobly, Mulligan said, “in the defense of others” -- an apparent allusion to Hasan’s “defense of others” legal argument that he attacked the deploying soldiers to protect the Taliban they planned to fight overseas.

Jurors alternately watched the prosecutor, victims’ relatives in the gallery and Hasan. When Mulligan spoke about the shooting’s youngest victim, 19-year-old Pfc. Aaron T. Nemelka, of West Jordan, Utah, a colonel stared at Nemelka’s mother in the gallery, who testified at sentencing. Another colonel appeared on the verge of tears.

The jury will vote on the sentence. For a death sentence, the vote must be unanimous. Under military law, the mandatory minimum sentence is life.

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