Daily Updates

August 26, 2013

Convicted Fort Hood gunman begins sentencing phase

FORT HOOD, Texas — The Fort Hood shooter, an Army psychiatrist convicted of killing 13 people in the November 2009 attack, faces the death penalty as the sentencing phase of his trial begins Monday.

Maj. Nidal Hasan showed no reaction after being found guilty last week by a military jury, which will now decide whether the Virginia-born Muslim who said he opened fire on unarmed soldiers at the Texas Army post to protect insurgents abroad should be executed.

Twelve of the dead were soldiers, including a pregnant private who pleaded for the unborn child’s life. More than 30 others were wounded. Investigators collected more than 200 bullet casings at the site of the attack.

At the minimum, the 42-year-old Hasan will spend the rest of his life in prison.

“This is where members (of the jury) decide whether you will live or whether you will die,” Col. Tara Osborn, the trial judge, told Hasan on Friday following his conviction.

She then again implored Hasan, who represented himself during the 14-day trial, to consider letting his standby attorneys take over for the sentencing phase. He declined.

Jurors deliberated for about seven hours before finding Hasan guilty on all counts. He gave them virtually no alternative, as he didn’t present a defense or make a closing argument, and he only questioned three of the nearly 90 witnesses called by prosecutors.

His silence convinced his court-ordered standby attorneys that Hasan wants jurors to sentence him to death. Hasan told military mental health officials in 2010 that he could “still be a martyr” if he is executed.

The sentencing phase will be Hasan’s last chance to say in court what he’s spent the last four years telling the military, judges and journalists: that the killing of American soldiers preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan was necessary to protect Muslim insurgents.

Hasan was prohibited from making a “defense of others” strategy during the guilt or innocence phase of his trial, but he will have more latitude during the sentencing portion. This has led legal experts and his civilian lawyer, John Galligan, to believe that Hasan could put himself on the witness stand this week.

Osborn didn’t ask Hasan whether he might testify following his conviction. But she did ask whether Hasan felt he had been subject to “illegal punishment” or been unfairly restricted since being put in custody after the shooting.

He told Osborn he wasn’t ready to answer.

“I’m still working on that,” Hasan said.

Prosecutors want Hasan to join just five other U.S. service members currently on military death row, and are planning to put more than a dozen grieving relatives on the witness stand. Three soldiers who survived being shot by Hasan but were left debilitated or unfit for service are also expected to testify.

But most will be widows, mothers, children and siblings of the slain, who are expected to tell a jury of 13 high-ranking military officers about their loves ones and describe the pain of living the last four years without them.

What they won’t be allowed to talk about are their feelings toward Hasan or what punishment they think he deserves.

Osborn told military prosecutors Friday to make sure their witnesses understood what topics were out of bounds. She was also considering excluding some family photos that could be considered duplicative, such as two different pictures of a victim in uniform.

“I understand the family members have memories of their loved ones,” Osborn said. “But that’s not part of the ruling I must make in a court of law.”

Jurors must be unanimous to sentence him to death.

No American soldier has been executed since 1961. Many military death row inmates have had their sentences overturned on appeal, which are automatic when jurors vote for the death penalty. The U.S. president must eventually approve a military death sentence.

———

Associated Press writers Will Weissert and Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.

 

1
Text Only
Daily Updates
  • 10 Things to Know for Monday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:

    April 20, 2014

  • In Other News, April 20

    April 20, 2014

  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout in east

    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state television stations aired pictures of supposed proof of their involvement in the attack that left at least three people dead.

    April 20, 2014

  • In West Bank, teen offenders face different fates

    The boys were both 15, with the crackly voices and awkward peach fuzz of adolescence. They lived just a few minutes away from one another in the West Bank. And both were accused of throwing stones at vehicles, one day after the other.

    April 20, 2014

  • Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas

    Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

    April 20, 2014

  • Fracking foes cringe as unions back drilling boom

    After early complaints that out-of-state firms got the most jobs, some local construction trade workers and union members in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia say they’re now benefiting in a big way from the Marcellus and Utica Shale oil and gas boom.

    April 20, 2014

  • In Colorado, a pot holiday tries to go mainstream

    Once the province of activists and stoners, the traditional pot holiday of April 20 has gone mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

    April 20, 2014

  • ‘Capt. America’ tops box office for third week

    Captain America continues to vanquish box office foes, triumphing in ticket sales for the third consecutive week and dominating over megastar Johnny Depp’s new movie.

    April 20, 2014

  • Probe could complicate Rick Perry’s prospects

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry has spent a record 14 years in office vanquishing nearly all who dared confront him: political rivals, moms against mandatory vaccines for sixth graders, a coyote in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    April 20, 2014

  • NASA’s space station Robonaut finally getting legs

    Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs.

    April 19, 2014