HOUSTON: US Army Major Nidal Hasan was found guilty of killing 13 people in a shooting rampage on a Texas military base, taking him a step closer to becoming the first active-duty soldier to be executed in more than 50 years.
Hasan now faces a possible death sentence or he could spend the rest of his life in prison. He has made it clear he wants to die a “martyr” for his warped cause.
The military jury of 13 officers yesterday deliberated about six hours on the case, ending a two-week trial in which Hasan represented himself, admitted to the shooting and largely declined to present a defense.
Prosecutors argued that the radical religious beliefs of Hasan, an American-born Muslim, led him to attack soldiers.
Witnesses testified that he shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) before he opened fire at a medical processing center. The shooting on November 5, 2009, left 13 people dead and more than 30 wounded, many of whom testified about the carnage during the court-martial.
The same jury that convicted Hasan will sentence him, with pre-sentencing hearings set to begin on Monday.
In order for Hasan to receive the death penalty, the jury’s vote on that punishment must be unanimous. Relatives of those killed are expected to testify at the hearings.
Before the jury delivered the guilty verdicts yesterday, a few tense minutes of anticipation gripped the courtroom.
Some of the survivors of the bloodbath began crying when the verdict was read, but Hasan dressed in Army fatigues with an American flag patch sewn onto one sleeve sat quietly in his wheelchair, his face a mask.
Hasan, who had served as his own lawyer, admitted that he was the shooter, saying he had been on the wrong side of a war against Islam and had switched over. He made barely any attempt to cross-examine the dozens of witnesses.
“I’m paraplegic and could be in jail for the rest of my life,” Hasan, who was shot in the back by officers responding to the rampage, told investigators after the attack. “However, if I died by lethal injection, I would still be a martyr.”
Even if Hasan is sentenced to death, he might not get his wish. There are currently five soldiers on the death row and there hasn’t been an execution since1961.-PTI