Fort Hood Gunman Rests Case Without Making Statement

by
Reuters
U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, who faces the possibility of a death sentence for the November 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, rested his case without making a statement in the sentencing phase of his trial on Tuesday.

U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, who faces the possibility of a death sentence for the November 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, rested his case without making a statement in the sentencing phase of his trial on Tuesday.

"The defense rests," said Hasan, who was convicted of killing 13 people and wounding 31 others, most of them unarmed soldiers, at the central Texas military base.

The jury of 13 military officers was instructed to return to court on Wednesday, when they will likely begin deliberating Hasan's sentence.

Judge Colonel Tara Osborn asked Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who has been acting as his own attorney, if he was sure he did not have anything to present.

"You are the captain of your own ship," she said. She also reminded him that he had a standby defense team that spent "many years" working on his case and had prepared evidence for him.

Hasan, who has spoken very little during the trial, replied that he understood.

The most he has said in court was in his opening statement on Aug. 6, when he admitted to being the gunman and said he had switched sides in what he considered to be a U.S. war on Islam.

Hasan, 42, uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed when shot by police to end the rampage at the U.S. Army base, one of the largest in the nation, just weeks before he was to be deployed to Afghanistan.

Twenty family members and victims gave evidence during the prosecution's side of the sentencing phase on Monday and Tuesday.

Joleen Cahill, testified that she and her three children have struggled with emotional, health and work issues since the death of her husband, retired Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cahill, 62, an employee at Fort Hood. The couple had been married for 37 years.

One night, the widow said, she found herself having a thought that she described as one "you shouldn't have," without elaborating, and realized: "I need to start fighting back."

"The shooting is not going to destroy my life or my children's. He is not going to win. I am in control," she said.

Hasan was convicted on Friday of 45 counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder, in what was the deadliest mass murder ever at a U.S. military base. He could be sentenced to death by the military jury weighing his punishment.

If the jury unanimously recommends death as his punishment, Hasan could face lethal injection, possibly making him the first U.S. soldier to be executed by the U.S. military since 1961.

An American-born Muslim, Hasan told mental health evaluators he wanted to become a martyr and lawyers assisting him said he was actively seeking the death penalty, though Hasan has disputed that claim. He declined to cross-examine any witness in the sentencing phase.

A death sentence would mean the start of a lengthy process requiring the approval of the Fort Hood commanding general, and the U.S. president, in order for there to be an execution.