Monday 29 December 2014

Fort Hood gunman faces sentence

Published 26/08/2013 | 10:57

Nidal Hasan will be sentenced this week for the Fort Hood army base massacre (AP)
Nidal Hasan will be sentenced this week for the Fort Hood army base massacre (AP)

The US army psychiatrist convicted of the Fort Hood massacre that killed 13 people is due to begin the sentencing phase of his trial possibly facing the death penalty.

Major 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 American soldiers 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 in the 2009 attack on the Texas Army post, where investigators collected more than 200 bullet casings.

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," Colonel 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 lawyers 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 did not present a defence 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 has 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.

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

Press Association

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