Death sentence for army base gunman
on 29/08/2013 09:35:14
Nidal Hasan's sentence for the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood was deemed the only punishment the US Army believed fit for an attack on fellow unarmed soldiers - and one that Hasan, 42, also appeared to seek in a self-proclaimed effort to become a martyr.
The rare military death sentence came nearly four years after the attack that stunned even an army hardened by more than a decade of constant war.
Hasan walked into a medical building where soldiers were receiving medical check-ups, shouted: "Allahu akbar" - Arabic for "God is great" - and opened fire with a laser-sighted handgun.
But because the military justice system requires a lengthy appeals process, years or even decades could pass before he is put to death.
The US-born Muslim said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression and he never denied being the gunman.
He acknowledged to the jury that he pulled the trigger in a crowded waiting room where troops were getting their final check-ups before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the worst attack on a US military base.
The same jurors who convicted Hasan last week deliberated the sentence for about two hours yesterday. They needed to agree unanimously on the death penalty. The only alternative was life in prison without parole.
The lead prosecutor assured jurors that Hasan would "never be a martyr" despite his attempt to tie the attack to religion.
"He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer," Col Mike Mulligan said in his final plea for the military death sentence.
Hasan made no statement before the sentence and had no visible reaction when it was read. Officials said he will be transported on the first available military flight to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
For nearly four years, the US government has sought to execute Hasan, believing that any sentence short of a lethal injection would deny justice to the families of the dead and the survivors.
Hasan has seemed content to go to the death chamber for his beliefs. He fired his own lawyers to represent himself and barely put up a defence during his trial.
He was never allowed to argue in front of the jury that the shooting was necessary to protect Islamic and Taliban leaders from US troops. During the trial, Hasan leaked documents to journalists that revealed him telling military mental health workers in 2010 that he could "still be a martyr" if executed.
All but one of the dead were soldiers, including a pregnant private who curled up on the floor and pleaded for her baby's life.
The attack ended only when Hasan was shot in the back by an officer responding to the shooting. Hasan is now paralysed from the waist down.
Death sentences are rare in the military, which has just five other prisoners on death row. The cases trigger a long appeals process and the president must give final authorisation before any service member is executed. No US soldier has been executed since 1961.