Verdict in, emotions run high ahead of Hasan sentencing
In this courtroom sketch, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is shown as the guilty verdict is read at his court martial, on Aug. 23, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas.
Stars and Stripes
FORT HOOD, Texas — More than a dozen family members of the fallen sat quietly in the courtroom, squeezing hands or wiping away tears.
Some wore metal memorial bracelets or dog tags engraved with the names of the loved ones they lost. One woman sighed and whispered, “Here we go.” A man turned to offer tissues to the others.
On the other side of a waist-high wooden divider, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan looked down at his notes and stroked his beard, as he had every other day of this court-martial.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, once again told the visitors in the courtroom that she would allow no outbursts or signs of agreement or disagreement. Everyone complied.
When the president of the jury panel read the verdict — guilty on all counts — Hasan did not react, and the courtroom stayed silent. But when the family members got up to leave, many had tears in their eyes or smiles of relief on their faces.
It’s been nearly four years since Hasan, dressed in his Army camouflage uniform, yelled, “God is great” in Arabic and opened fire on unarmed soldiers sitting in folding chairs at a clinic for deploying and returning soldiers. In the prosecution’s closing statement, Col. Steve Henricks said Hasan turned the seating area — called Station 13 — into “his personal kill station.”
On Monday, the panel of jurors will hear emotionally charged testimony from family members of the fallen, to help them determine whether to sentence Hasan to life in prison, or give him the death penalty.
Hasan is representing himself in the case, and Osborn has frequently reminded him that he would be better off with a lawyer. On Friday afternoon, she told him that in the sentencing phase, the panel will determine “whether you should live or whether you should die.”
Because the sentencing phase is so complicated, she said, she wanted to make sure he was going into it “with [his] eyes wide open.”
Still, Hasan said he plans to continue to act as his own defense attorney.
Starting Monday, the prosecution is expected to call up to 20 witnesses, most of them family members of the 12 soldiers and one retired soldier who were killed in the massacre.
Despite Hasan’s quiet throughout the trial, experts believe he also will take the stand.
Geoffrey Corn, a former military attorney and current professor at South Texas College of Law, said Hasan likely declined to call witnesses or give a closing statement in the first phase of the trial because he realized that once his attempt to use a “defense of others” tactic was rejected, “the outcome of the guilt phase was inevitable.”
Because Hasan can make a statement without taking the oath or submitting to possible cross-examination, Corn said, he will likely want to use that opportunity to explain why he killed his fellow soldiers.
“I think it will only alienate the members [of the jury panel], but I think that is what he will probably do,” Corn said.
However, the judicial process that has dragged on for years may have an additional holdup: Friday afternoon, Hasan hinted that he may file a complaint about the conditions of his pretrial confinement.
Osborn asked him if he had been punished or restrained in any way that would constitute illegal pretrial confinement. He told her he is “still working on that.”