FORT HOOD (August 28, 2013)—A 13-member jury panel of Army officers deliberated for about 2 hours Wednesday before voting to sentence Fort Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan, 42, to death by lethal injection for the deadly Nov. 5, 2009 shooting rampage at the post’s Soldier Readiness Center.
(Sketch by Brigitte Woosley)
The death sentence required a unanimous vote.
Hasan showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
The jury also ordered forfeiture of the former Army psychiatrist's pay and allowances and dismissal from the service.
The sentence now goes to convening authority, Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi.
He must approve or can reduce Hasan’s death sentence, which is then subject to automatic appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Military Appeals.
The president must also approve the sentence before the execution can be carried out.
Hasan will be returned to the Bell County Jail, where he’s been held since his release from a hospital, to await the next available military flight to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., which is home to the military’s only maximum-security prison and the military’s death row.
Hasan was shot in the back during the shooting rampage, which left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Leavenworth is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations and inmates have access to military and civilian health professionals.
Death row inmates are segregated from the prison’s general population, media relations officer Kimberly Lewis said Wednesday, and are subjected to the same standards and treatment as any other soldier, which means Hasan will have to shave his beard.
U.S. Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock, and Roger Williams, R-Weatherford, whose districts include the sprawling Army post, both praised the sentence in statements Wednesday and repeated their call for classifying the rampage as a terrorist act rather than workplace violence, broadening the benefits for which victims and families are eligible.
“I understand that excess publicity prior to this trial could have influenced Hasan’s sentence and I have been careful not to say or do anything that could have affected this justified outcome,” Carter said Wednesday.
“Now that Hasan is convicted and has been sentenced, I promise to pursue every avenue to promote the cause of our soldiers and their families. As the federal representative for Fort Hood, I will not abandon this fight until it is won.”
Neal Sher, an attorney who represents many of the Fort Hood victims, released a statement after the jury announced its decision Wednesday in which he said that Hasan got what he deserved, but the families of the dead and the injured still have not.
“For four years, the government has ignored the Fort Hood victims and swept their ailments and struggles under the rug. The Department of Defense has refused to label the attack as terrorism, in the process denying its victims the medals, benefits and compensation to which they are entitled,” he said.
“Now that the court martial and sentencing is complete, the Defense Department and Justice Department need to do the right thing. They must officially call this attack terrorism, accept responsibility for their own actions that led to the attack, and give the victims the benefits, medals and compensation to which they are entitled,” he said.
During closing arguments Wednesday, lead prosecutor Col. Mike Mulligan told the panel that Hasan deserved to be executed because he “dealt death to soldiers.”
Hasan offered no closing statement.
Mulligan, told jurors Wednesday that Hasan was a trained doctor yet had no compassion when he opened fire on unarmed soldiers.
Hasan "only dealt death," and the only appropriate sentence is death, he said.
"It would be wrong to link his acts to any wider cause. It was a conscious decision to commit murder to serve his own needs, his own wants. The attack by him was all about him,” prosecutors said.
“This is about his soul, for his soul he stole life from 13 others”
“What do you call an officer who guns down innocent, unarmed soldiers, those crawling away, those giving aid?”
“He will not now and never will be a martyr,” prosecutors said.
“He is a criminal he is a cold blooded murderer on 5 November he did not leave this earth, he remained to pay a price”
Hasan declined to present a closing argument Wednesday, passing on his final chance to address jurors before they decide his fate.
“I have no closing statement,” he said.
Prosecutors rested their case in the punishment phase of Hasan’ court-martial on Tuesday after they presented testimony from 20 shooting survivors and relatives of the 13 who died in the rampage.
Hasan, however, declined, as he did during the first phase of his court-martial, to call any witnesses or present any evidence.
The three attorneys who were appointed to serve as Hasan’s standby counsel asked Osborn Tuesday to allow them to present evidence on Hasan’s behalf as a third party.
Hasan objected to the motion and Osborn denied it, saying a defendant who chooses to represent himself “is the captain of his own ship.”
Jurors convicted Hasan on all counts Friday.
Hasan was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of unpremeditated murder in the deadly rampage.
Michael Cahill, 62, of Cameron, was the only civilian killed in the attack.
He was shot to death as he charged Hasan with a chair over his head in an effort to stop the shooting.
His widow, Joleen, testified Tuesday that she has left his den unchanged and has kept his cell phone activated so his children can hear his voice.
"Mike was glue in my family,” she testified.
"One of the hardest things was being alone for the first time in 60 years of my life,” she said.
She said at one point she considered suicide, but dismissed that as an option.
"(Hasan) is not going to win,” she told the jury.
“I am in control."
Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, also died in the attack.
Krueger, who was from the small town of Kiel, Wis., joined the Army after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and vowed to take on Osama bin Laden.
"I said ‘you can't take on bin Laden all by yourself’ and she said ‘watch me,’" her mother Geraldine Krueger testified Tuesday.
"When a parent loses a child, it creates an irreparable, irreplaceable void,” she said.
“I live with that every day."
Pfc. Michael Pearson was 22 when he died.
His mother, Sheryll Pearson, testified Tuesday she learned of his death in a call from a surgeon who told her doctors tried to revive him two or three times without success.
"Mikey was always moving forward in his life and we always wanted to see who he was going to be, who he was going to become,” she said.
Lt. Col Juanita Warman, 55, loved to sail, her husband Philip testified Tuesday.
After her death, he said, he felt as if “I had something ripped out of me.”
He said he started drinking and continued to drink until checking into rehab in June 2010.
He said he’s been sober since and said he takes his sobriety tokens from Alcoholics Anonymous and pushes them into the ground at the his wife’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery.
Sgt. Patrick Ziegler, Jr., survived the attack, but testified Monday that he lost 20 percent of his brain in the shooting and was left partially paralyzed
He testified he has battled severe depression and anger and said his cognitive ability will gradually decline over time.
He said his wife has to lead him around and said he’s unable to pick up his 10-month-old son from the floor or take care of him.
He said he’ll never be able to function independently again, his military career is over, and it’s doubtful he’ll ever be able to hold a job.
Angela Rivera, of Tucson, Ariz., whose husband, psychologist Maj. L. Eduardo Careveo, 52, was killed in the attack, testified that she left his cell phone on so she could call it and hear his voice, but said the carrier accidentally deleted the greeting.
She testified they had one child together and a total of four others between them.
She said she knew something was wrong when she called him on Nov. 5, 2009 and didn’t get an answer, but not until 5:25 a.m. the next day was she officially notified that he was dead.
She sobbed as she recalled, “I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, I knew he was dead because he did not call me back."
Francheska Velez, 21, who was pregnant when she was killed in the rampage, intended to make a career of the military and take advantage of educational benefits and to improve herself, her father, Juan Velez, testified through an interpreter.
She said her death “hurt me down to the bottom of my soul.”
"That man did not just kill 13 people,” he said, “He killed 15.”
“He killed my son, my grandson, and he killed me....slowly, " he said.
Before the proceedings started Monday, military judge Col. Tara Osborn reminded Hasan outside the presence of the jury that the team of attorneys she assigned to assist him as needed is still standing by.
“Any of them can jump back in and act as your lawyers as soon as you need them,” she told Hasan.
She also reminded Hasan that he will continue to have to abide by the same standards as an attorney during the proceedings.
"This is the stage of the trial when the panel decides whether you should live or you should die,” she told him.
“You are staking your life on the decisions you make."