Hasan found guilty on all counts in Fort Hood shooting
August 23, 2013
FORT HOOD, Texas — Guilty, on all 45 counts.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was found guilty by unanimous vote Friday of opening fire in a crowded clinic here on Nov. 5, 2009, killing 13 people and injuring 31 others, as well as shooting at the police officer who took him down.
The verdict was unanimous on all charges; Hasan could be sentenced to death for the crimes.
The panel of 13 military officers deliberated for nearly seven hours before delivering the verdict. Starting Monday, they will hear more witness testimony — and potentially a statement from Hasan — before deciding his sentence.
Hasan was wheeled into the courtroom by a civilian police officer and kept his eyes cast downward, stroking his beard as he waited for the judge and jury to return to the courtroom. More than a dozen family members sat quietly in the courtroom, many wearing metal remembrance bracelets or dog tags, wiping away tears and clutching hands before the president of the panel read the verdict.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, again reminded those in the courtroom that no outbursts of any kind are allowed, and those inside heeded the warning. Still, many had tears in their eyes or relieved smiles on their faces as they left quietly after the verdict.
Hasan did look up at the president as she read the verdict, then looked back down, glancing up again briefly as Osborn said the sentencing phase will begin Monday at 9 a.m.
Hasan began the trial with a brief opening statement admitting his guilt, then stayed largely silent throughout the proceedings. The Army psychiatrist, who is representing himself, chose not to call any witnesses or make any closing statement.
The military lawyers assigned to help Hasan in his defense repeatedly asked to be excused from their duties because they believed Hasan was actively seeking the death penalty and they find that “morally repugnant.” But Osborn, told them the disagreement seemed to be simply a difference of opinion about tactics, and ordered them to continue helping Hasan.
Still, military legal experts say there was so much evidence that they don’t believe there was any way Hasan could have avoided a guilty verdict.
“I’m not sure what the best defense lawyer in the world could have done about the evidence coming in,” said Retired Maj. Gen. John Altenburg, a former Army deputy judge advocate general who is now a lawyer in Washington, D.C.
Richard Rosen, a retired military prosecutor and current professor of law at Texas Tech University, agreed that there wasn’t anything any defense counsel could have done to change the outcome.
“I think the result would have been the same” even if he had an aggressive defense attorney, Rosen said. “The evidence is so overwhelming.”
Geoffrey Corn, also a retired military attorney and current law professor at South Texas College of Law, said Hasan’s quiet during the trial may have been his way of boycotting the process as a show of his disdain for the Army and the military justice system.
However, Corn said he doesn’t believe Hasan is trying to get the death penalty.
“I think it is exactly opposite: He is convinced what he did was religiously and morally justified, and therefore the right thing to do,” Corn said. “Why would he want to be put to death for that? He may have resigned himself to that fate, but he doesn’t want it.”
And, along with many others, Corn said he expects Hasan to speak up during the sentencing phase of the trial — when he can choose to make an unsworn statement, which is not subject to cross-examination.
“I suspect he will so he can give his narrative, unchallenged pitch as to why he believes what he did was justified,” Corn said. “He wants to control the process, and that is the only aspect of the trial where he gets to have that control. I doubt he can pass it up, even if he otherwise disdains the process.”