No verdict yet in Fort Hood shooting trial
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The Army psychiatrist on trial for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood passed on his final chance to address jurors before they started deliberating Thursday, even after prosecutors insisted they hand down a verdict that would allow the death penalty.
Maj. Nidal Hasan is acting as his own attorney but declined to plead his case after prosecutors finished their closing argument. When the judge told Hasan he could begin, he said: “The defense chooses not to make a closing statement.”
The Army psychiatrist is facing numerous counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder for the attack, which killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at the sprawling Army post in central Texas on Nov. 5, 2009.
It was the deadliest mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base.
Prosecutors laid out a detailed roadmap of their case during their closing argument, saying there was no question that Hasan planned and carried out the attack.
“The facts I laid out to you give you only one option,” the prosecutor, Col. Steve Henricks, told jurors. “The accused without a doubt — without any doubt at all — had a premeditated design to kill.”
Jurors began deliberating Thursday afternoon. After about three hours, they asked if they could review the testimony of Sgt. Mark Todd, the Fort Hood police officer who ended the rampage by shooting the gunman. In a statement submitted to the court, Todd testified that Hasan fired at him before he fired back, hit the soldier and then kicked away his gun.
The judge agreed to the review, then she allowed jurors to leave for the evening. Deliberations are scheduled to resume Friday morning.
During his brief opening statement two weeks ago, Hasan told jurors that evidence would “clearly show” he was the shooter. He also described himself as a soldier who had “switched sides.”
But since then, he has sat mostly silent in his wheelchair. Hasan, who was paralyzed after he was shot during the attack, has raised few objections during the 13-day trial. He questioned only three of the nearly 90 witnesses called by prosecutors, and the only piece of evidence he submitted was an evaluation from his boss that called him a good soldier.
On Thursday, military prosecutors asked jurors for a unanimous conviction on the premeditated murder charges, which would allow them to seek the death penalty — the government’s priority in the case.
Henricks repeatedly emphasized the word “premeditation,” trying to dissuade the jury — 13 high-ranking military officers — of even considering a conviction on a lesser charge that would take the death penalty off the table.
“There’s no doubt the evidence you heard in this case shows he committed the offense,” Henricks said.
Henricks said Hasan asked for the highest-tech weapon available when he went to a gun store a few months before the Nov. 5, 2009, attack, and he soon began practicing at a gun range. Hasan also used laser sights, which Henricks said “established intent to kill.”
The prosecutor noted that the shootings, which started inside a medical building crowded with soldiers preparing to deploy, came the same day Hasan’s unit was at that building. Hasan was assigned to soon join the unit in Afghanistan on a six-month tour.
The last witness to testify for prosecutors had said Hasan told her shortly before the shooting, without prompting, that the Army would “pay” if he were ever ordered deployed overseas.
“Some things speak for themselves. It doesn’t require any evidence — because it’s no coincidence — that the accused did his crime on Five November,” Henricks told jurors.
Henricks also noted that Hasan targeted soldiers, leaving most civilians unscathed. After Hasan fled the medical building, and civilians outside asked him what was going on, “he tells them it’s a paintball gun. It’s a training exercise. He’s keeping his wits about him even after what happened,” Henricks said.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, has been unapologetic about saying the rampage was necessary to protect Muslim insurgents abroad from American soldiers preparing for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. But most of his arguments have played out through leaks to the media or directly to the judge, so they couldn’t be considered by the jury.
Associated Press writer Will Weissert contributed to this report from Fort Hood.
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