Fort Hood, Texas • A military jury has sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for killing 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009. Hasan has said the attack on unarmed soldiers was motivated by a desire to protect Muslim insurgents fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, has tried through court documents and leaks to the media to justify the November 2009 shooting rampage as necessary to protect Islamic and Taliban leaders from U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hasan was never allowed to make those arguments to jurors, who convicted him last week for the attack that also wounded 30 people at the Texas military base. Hasan gave no closing argument — passing on his final chance to address jurors before they began deliberating his fate.
Hasan’s choice marked a continuation of an absent defense strategy that he has used since his trial began three weeks ago.
The Army psychiatrist has been representing himself during his trial. But his behavior has only stoked suspicion that his ultimate goal was martyrdom, in the form of a death sentence that would allow him to fulfill what prosecutors have described as a “jihad duty” under his Islamic faith.
Hasan has done nothing to dissuade jurors from giving him a death sentence. Even when his standby lawyers pleaded in vain to argue on his behalf, he described them as “overzealous.”
At the start of his trial he gave a brief opening statement, during which he said evidence would show he was the shooter and described himself as a soldier who had “switched sides.” But he called no witnesses and didn’t testify, and he questioned only three of the nearly 90 witnesses called by prosecutors before he was convicted. He also gave no closing statement.
During the sentencing phase of this trial, Hasan again presented no witnesses or evidence. And he questioned none of prosecutors’ witnesses: dozens of widows, parents, children and other relatives of those killed who gave emotional testimony about their lives since the attack.