Hasan convicted of murder for Fort Hood rampage

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- Army Maj.
Nidal Hasan was convicted Friday in
the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort
Hood, a shocking assault against
American troops at home by one of
their own who said he opened fire
on fellow soldiers to protect Muslim
insurgents abroad.
The Army psychiatrist acknowledged
carrying out the attack in a crowded
waiting room where unarmed troops
were making final preparations to
deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Thirteen people were killed and
more than 30 wounded.
Because Hasan never denied his
actions, the court-martial was
always less about a conviction than
it was about ensuring he received
the death penalty. From the
beginning of the case, the federal
government has sought to execute
Hasan, believing that any sentence
short of a lethal injection would
deprive the military and the
families of the dead of the justice
they have sought for nearly four
years.
A jury of 13 high-ranking military
officers reached a unanimous guilty
verdict on all charges -- 13 counts
of premeditated murder and 32
counts of attempted premeditated
murder -- in about seven hours.
Hasan had no visible reaction as
the verdict was read. After the jury
and Hasan left the courtroom, some
victims who survived the shooting
and family members began to cry.
In the next phase of the trial that
will begin Monday, they must all
agree to give Hasan the death
penalty before he can be sent to
the military's death row, which has
just five other prisoners. If they do
not agree, the 42-year-old could
spend the rest of his life in prison.
Hasan, a Virginia-born Muslim, said
the attack was a jihad against U.S.
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He
bristled when the trial judge, Col.
Tara Osborn, suggested the
shooting rampage could have been
avoided were it not for a
spontaneous flash of anger.
"It wasn't done under the heat of
sudden passion," Hasan said before
jurors began deliberating. "There
was adequate provocation -- that
these were deploying soldiers that
were going to engage in an illegal
war."
All but one of the dead were
soldiers, including a pregnant
private who curled on the floor and
pleaded for her baby's life.
The sentencing phase is expected
to include more testimony from
survivors of the attack inside an
Army medical center where soldiers
were waiting in long lines to receive
immunizations and medical
clearance for deployment.
About 50 soldiers and civilians
testified of hearing someone scream
"Allahu akbar!" -- Arabic for "God is
great!" -- and seeing a man in Army
camouflage open fire. Many
identified Hasan as the shooter and
recalled his handgun's red and
green laser sights piercing a room
made dark with gun smoke.
Hasan, who acted as his own
attorney, began the trial by telling
jurors he was the gunman. But he
said little else over the next three
weeks, which convinced his court-
appointed standby lawyers that
Hasan's only goal was to get a
death sentence.
As the trial progressed, those
suspicions grew. The military called
nearly 90 witnesses, but Hasan
rested his case without calling a
single person to testify in his
defense and made no closing
argument. Yet he leaked documents
during the trial to journalists that
revealed him telling military mental
health workers that he could "still
be a martyr" if executed.
Death sentences are rare in the
military and trigger automatic
appeals that take decades play out.
Among the final barriers to
execution is authorization from the
president. No American soldier has
been executed since 1961.
Hasan spent weeks planning the
Nov. 5, 2009, attack. His preparation
included buying the handgun and
videotaping a sales clerk showing
him how to change the magazine.
He later plunked down $10 at a gun
range outside Austin and asked for
pointers on how to reload with
speed and precision. An instructor
said he told Hasan to practice while
watching TV or sitting on his couch
with the lights off.
When the time came, Hasan stuffed
paper towels in the pockets of his
cargo pants to muffle the rattling of
extra ammo and avoid arousing
suspicion. Soldiers testified that
Hasan's rapid reloading made it all
but impossible to stop the
shooting. Investigators recovered
146 shell casings inside the medical
building and dozens more outside,
where Hasan shot at the backs of
soldiers fleeing toward the parking
lot.
The first person to charge Hasan, a
civilian doctor, was shot dead while
wielding a chair. Another soldier
who ran at him with a table was
stopped upon being shot in the
hand.
Chief Warrant Officer Christopher
Royal saw an opening after hearing
the distinct clicking of the gun's
chamber emptying. But he slipped
on a puddle of blood while starting
a sprint toward Hasan. He was shot
in the back.
Tight security blanketed the trial.
The courthouse was made into a
fortress insulated by a 20-foot
cushion of blast-absorbing
blockades, plus an outer perimeter
of shipping containers stacked
three high. A helicopter ferried
Hasan back and forth each day. The
small courtroom was guarded by
soldiers carrying high-powered
rifles.
In court, Hasan never played the
role of an angry extremist. He didn't
get agitated or raise his voice. He
addressed Osborn as "ma'am" and
occasionally whispered "thank you"
when prosecutors, in accordance
with the rules of admitting
evidence, handed Hasan red pill
bottles that rattled with bullet
fragments removed from those who
were shot.
His muted presence was a contrast
to the spectacles staged by other
unapologetic jihadists in U.S.
courts. Terrorist conspirator
Zacarias Moussaoui disrupted his
2006 sentencing for the Sept. 11
attacks multiple times with
outbursts, was ejected several times
and once proclaimed, "I am al-
Qaida!"
Prosecutors never charged Hasan as
a terrorist -- an omission that still
galls family members of the slain
and survivors, some of whom have
sued the U.S. government over
missing the warning signs of
Hasan's views before the attack.