29 Aug 2013

Death sentence for Fort Hood shooter

An ex-US Army psychiatrist could become the first service member executed in over 50 years after he was sentenced to death for the Fort Hood shooting, in which 13 people were killed and 32 injured.

A military jury sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death by lethal injection for the 2009 shooting at the Texas Army base.

His case will now go through an automatic, and lengthy, appeals process which could take years.

However Hasan, 42, rejected legal counsel and did not speak to defend himself during the trial, leading to speculation that he wants to become a martyr.

Hasan walked into a medical building where soldiers were getting medical checkups, shouted “Allahu akbar” – Arabic for “God is great!” – and opened fire with a laser-sighted handgun. It was the worst ever attack on a US military base.

The US-born Muslim said that 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 final medical checkups before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Thirteen people were killed and 32 were wounded.

Hasan will ‘never be a martyr’

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,” said Col. Mike Mulligan in his final plea for a rare military death sentence. However the president must give final authorisation before any service member is executed.

The jurors who convicted Hasan last week came together again to deliberate the sentence for about two hours. They needed to agree unanimously on the death penalty. The only alternative was life in prison without parole.

Death sentences are rare in the military, which has just five other prisoners on death row. The cases trigger a long appeals process, which could last years, or even decades. The last US soldier was executed since 1961