Prosecution presses for death penalty in Hasan sentencing
Stars and Stripes
FORT HOOD, Texas — Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan deserves to be sentenced to death, the lead prosecutor in the case against him told the jury Wednesday.
“Death. He was trained as a doctor to save lives, but on 5 November, he only dealt death,” Col. Michael Mulligan said, beginning a closing argument that included mentions of each of the families shattered by the shooting at the post clinic.
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was convicted Friday of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Mulligan addressed the jury Wednesday morning, before they began deliberations on his sentence.
“We ask you now, with your sentence, to make him accountable,” Mulligan said. “Today will be his day of reckoning.”
Hasan opened the trial with a brief opening statement admitting his guilt. He called himself a member of the Mujahadeen and said he had been on the wrong side of the war. The jury cannot punish Hasan, an America-born Muslim, just for his religion, but they can consider that his religion motivated his actions.
Mulligan stressed that point in his closing statement: “You should not punish him for his religion. You should punish him for his hate.”
In documents Hasan’s civilian attorney provided to The New York Times, Hasan said he would become a martyr if he dies by lethal injection. But Mulligan told the jury that Hasan must pay the price for his actions, and that he will not become a martyr if the panel sentences him to death.
“Do not be fooled. He is not giving his life, we are taking his life. This is not his gift to god, this is his debt to society,” Mulligan said. “This is not a charitable act, this is the cost of his murderous rampage. He is not now and never will be a martyr. He is a criminal. He’s a cold-blooded murderer.”
Hasan did not seem to react to any of the prosecution’s statements. He did not make a closing statement.
For Hasan to receive the death penalty, the jury must unanimously vote that the facts of the case outweigh any mitigating or extenuating factors, and the officers must vote unanimously for death.
“What you must decide is what a life is worth. What are two lives worth? What are 13 lives worth?” Mulligan asked the jury. “What is a military career worth? What is the use of your arm worth? What is the loss of your eye worth? A child’s life without a father or a mother worth? ... How do you measure the depravity that allows shooting the wounded while they try to escape?”
The widows of Michael Cahill and Capt. John Gaffaney and the mothers of Pfc. Aaron Nemelka, Sgt. Amy Krueger and Spc. Jason D. Hunt sat in the courtroom for the closing statement. As the judge had instructed throughout the trial, they showed no obvious emotion.
On Tuesday, the military attorneys assigned to assist Hasan in the case tried to step in and present evidence on his behalf.
“If no one is making the case for life, there is only death,” said Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, who previously asked the judge if he and the other standby lawyers could be excused from the case because they believe Hasan is seeking the death penalty.
At issue is a trove of evidence collected on Hasan’s behalf during the more than 1,370 days he’s been in jail: his academic record, his medical information and life expectancy, his good behavior during pre-trial confinement, his community involvement, lack of criminal history and other information.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, went through the information exhibit by exhibit, each time asking Hasan if he understood that the evidence could help him and making sure he did not want to present it.
Hasan said he understood, but the answer was still no. He also called his standby counsel “overzealous.”
Poppe argued that the standby counsel should have the right to present evidence that could lessen Hasan’s sentence, whether he wanted them to or not. But Osborn said no.
“Major Hasan is the captain of his own ship,” she said.