August 28, 2013 in Nation/World

Hasan offers no evidence during sentencing phase

Judge rules defendant controls his own case
Molly Hennessy-Fiske Los Angeles Times

FORT HOOD, Texas – Legal advisers for convicted shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan attempted to submit sympathetic evidence over his objections at his sentencing Tuesday, telling the judge that if Hasan refuses to fight a death sentence, someone should.

They argued Hasan should not be allowed to prevent the military jury from seeing the evidence, which might lead them to sentence him to life in prison.

“If no one is making a case for life, there is only death,” said the lead adviser, Lt. Col Kris Poppe.

Hasan, 42, was convicted last week of premeditated murder in connection with the shooting that killed 13 and wounded more than 30 at this central Texas Army post on Nov. 5, 2009, the deadliest attack on a U.S. military base. The Army psychiatrist has been representing himself since the start of the court-martial, and criticized his advisers Tuesday as “overzealous.”

Poppe wanted to submit evidence gathered on Hasan’s behalf by experts, including a lawyer the government hired who specializes in helping clients fight death sentences. The military judge refused his request, ruling that Hasan has an absolute right to control his case and suppress sympathetic evidence – that he lacked a prior criminal record, for instance, and suffers from various medical conditions (wounded in the shooting, he’s paraplegic).

“Maj. Hasan is the captain of his own ship,” said the judge, Col. Tara Osborn.

Poppe complained at trial that Hasan was seeking the death penalty. Hasan, an American-born Muslim, denied the allegation, but three years ago he told a military mental health panel that being put to death would still make him a martyr. He and prosecutors argued at trial that his religious beliefs lead him to attack fellow soldiers on the eve of his deployment to Afghanistan.

This week, Hasan appeared to be handling his sentencing as he did his trial – swiftly, declining to call or question witnesses as he sat quietly, at times stroking the beard he grew in jail and fought to keep for religious reasons in defiance of Army regulations. When offered a chance to present his case Tuesday, Hasan said simply: “The defense rests.”

Both sides will have a chance to make their case in closing arguments today before the same jury of 13 officers that convicted Hasan. Prosecutors presented testimony from about 20 victims and relatives before they rested their case Tuesday. Many said they struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email