Major Nidal Malik Hasan will defend himself in the Fort Hood Shooting Trial set to start today. November 5, 2009 saw the former Army psychiatrist opening fire in a 10 minute rampage on the Killeen, TX military base. When the police fired on Hasan effectively rendering him paralyzed from the waist down 13 were dead and several dozen wounded. The nearing trial means several survivors and the families of victims will face Hasan who will be defending himself in court.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, faces the death penalty in this case. Despite this, he never denied his role in the shootings. The stage for this trial is a courthouse that will have sand filled barriers on Fort Hood and will see armed soldiers patrolling the exterior. There will also be security checks before people enter the courthouse.
The accused is looking at 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of premeditated attempted murder. Should Hasan be convicted, he would be the first active duty U.S soldier on death row in over 50 years. Marine Corps Colonel and Air Force appellate defense Counsel Dwight Sullivan told USA Today that the last Army soldier executed was Private John Bennett in 1961. He was hanged for the rape and attempted murder of a young girl. In 1849 the Navy did its last execution and the Marine Corps roughly 32 years prior to that.
Hasan’s road to the slaughter was sewn during regular contact with Anwar al-Awlaki who was an American-born cleric. The two exchanged 20 or so emails leading up to November 5, 2009. Anwar al-Awlaki stated that he didn’t give Nidal Malik Hasan the green light to kill, but did praise him for the act. Al-Awlaki was killed following a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.
In pretrial hearings, the 42-year old Army psychiatrist stated that he went on the shooting spree to protect Taliban leaders in Afghanistan. Recently this defense strategy was axed by a judge. The case was delayed multiple times for various reasons and looks to go on for several weeks—maybe even months, but overall one of the main concerns was both Hasan’s physical and mental health to endure the trial.
While it was determined that he is in fact mentally competent to stand trial, Hasan’s physical condition was another story. Confined to a wheel chair after being paralyzed by the police at the scene of the shooting, doctors have gone a record to say that Hasan is unable to stand for longer than 12 a day before his concentration is hindered.
The nature of the trial seems to be more straightforward than civilian tribes. Court martials with the death penalty on the table features twelve jurors who will outrank Hasan. Known as a “panel”, the twelve jurors list to both sides and announce their verdict as well as the punishment. From there, the verdict is passed on to the base commander who will have to sign off on the panelists’ decision. If he or she sees fit, he or she can also alter the punishment.
In the case of the death penalty, convictions are put in the appeals stage automatically.