FORT HOOD, Texas – A military jury on Friday convicted Maj. Nidal Hasan in the deadly 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, making the Army psychiatrist eligible for the death penalty in the shocking assault against American troops by one of their own on home soil.
There was never any doubt that Hasan was the gunman. He acknowledged to the jury that he was the one who pulled the trigger on fellow soldiers as they prepared to deploy overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. And he barely defended himself during a three-week trial.
The unanimous decision on all 13 counts of premeditated murder made Hasan eligible for execution in the sentencing phase that begins Monday.
Hasan, who said he acted to protect Muslim insurgents abroad from American aggression, did not react to the verdict, looking straight at jurors as they announced their findings.
Because Hasan never denied his actions, the court-martial was always less about a conviction than it was about ensuring he received a death sentence. From the beginning, the federal government has sought to execute Hasan, believing that any sentence short of a lethal injection would deprive the military and the families of the dead of the justice they have sought for nearly four years.
Hasan, who represented himself after firing his legal team, was also convicted on 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. He carried out the attack in a crowded waiting room where unarmed troops were making final preparations to deploy. Thirteen people were killed and more than were 30 wounded.
The jury of 13 high-ranking officers took about seven hours to reach the verdict. In the next phase, jurors must all agree to give Hasan the death penalty before he can be sent to the military’s death row. If they do not agree, the 42-year-old will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Hasan, a Virginia-born Muslim, said the attack was a jihad against U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He bristled when the judge suggested the shooting rampage could have been avoided were it not for a spontaneous flash of anger.
“It wasn’t done under the heat of sudden passion,” Hasan said before jurors began deliberating. “There was adequate provocation – that these were deploying soldiers that were going to engage in an illegal war.”
The attack ended when Hasan was shot in the back by one of the officers responding to the shooting. He is now paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair.