(Sketch by Brigitte Woosley)
FORT HOOD (August 23, 2013)--If Maj. Nidal Hasan is sentenced to death, he will join five other men on military death row at Fort Leavenworth's U.S. Disciplinary Baracks, (USDB), in Kansas.
Among the inmates is Dwight Jeffrey Loving, who was convicted at Fort Hood of the Dec. 11, 1988 robbery and murder of two Killeen taxi drivers, one a retired Army NCO and the other an active duty soldier who was moonlighting as a cabbie.Loving attempted to rob a third driver but that man was able to escape without injury. Testimony at court-martial showed Loving shot both men in the back of the head and made off with less than $100.
The USDB houses more than 425 male inmates, the Army says, five of them on death row, 10 serving life sentences without the possibility of parole and the remainder in maximum security. It is the oldest prison in the federal system, starting operations in 1875 as the Unites States Military Prison.
The military has not carried out an execution since April 13, 1961, when John A. Bennett was hanged after his conviction in February 1955 for rape and premeditated attempted murder, but Army records show 160 members of the American armed services were executed between 1942 and 1961, most of them between 1942 and 1945. During the First World War the U.S. military executed 61 servicemen.
President Ronald Reagan reinstituted the military death penalty in 1984 by executive order.
The soldier most recently sent to death row at the USDB is Timothy Hennis, who was convicted of the murders of a North Carolina woman and her two children at a Fort Bragg court martial in 2010.
Also included in the five is former Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who was convicted in 2005 of tossing a grenade into a tent of sleeping soldiers killing two of them at the 101st Airborne Division's Kuwaiti camp. Prosecutors said Akbar told them he carried out the attacks to prevent the soldiers from killing Muslims in Iraq. He was the first American soldier accused of killing fellow soldiers since the Vietnam War.
Also awaiting his execution is Ronald Gray, who was to have been executed in 2008 for multiple rapes and murders until a federal judge stayed the execution.
Former Airman Andrew Witt, convicted of murdering Sr. Airman Andy Schliepsiek and his wife in their home, by stabbing them each repeatedly and leaving them to die, was sentenced to death in October 2005. Witt was convicted of murdering the couple as well as attempted murder of their friend Jason King, who survived the attack. (Paul J. Gately)
FORT HOOD (August 26, 2013)-- A 13-member panel of Army officers could make a decision before the end of the day Monday about whether Fort Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan, 42, lives or dies.
The panel returns to court Monday to hear testimony in the sentencing phase of the court-martial of the former Army psychiatrist.
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."
Prosecutors plan to call about 20 witnesses, many of them relatives of the 13 people who were killed in the Nov. 5, 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center.
Jurors must decide whether to sentence to Hasan to spend the rest of his life in prison or to death.
A death sentence requires a unanimous vote of the panel.
The panel convicted Hasan on all counts Friday.
He was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of unpremeditated murder in the deadly rampage.
It’s not clear whether he plans to mount any defense in this phase of the court-martial after he mostly remained silent during the longer guilt or innocence phase.
Osborn again advised Hasan Friday that she thought it was unwise for him to act as his own attorney, but Hasan said he will continue to represent himself.
"This is the time when members decide whether you should live or die," she told the Army psychiatrist.
The guilty verdict Friday generally came as no surprise.
“Justice has been served,” retired Army Staff Sgt. Howard Ray, who survived the rampage without injury, told the Associated Press after the verdict.
He told AP the verdict sends the message that the military “isn’t going to mess with this kind of terrorism.”
Ray, 33, who now lives in Rochelle, said Hasan fired several times in his direction, but missed.
He said he struggled with nightmares and anxiety for a year after the shooting.
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, whose district includes Fort Hood, said he was happy with, but not surprised by the verdict.
“I have been keeping up with the trial and believe the judge did a great job of protecting the constitutional integrity of this trial, ensuring a guilty verdict. We must now wait and see what Major Hasan’s sentence will be. I hope an appropriate sentence will be handed down by the court, keeping Major Hasan from becoming a martyr for his cause,” he said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Weatherford, whose district also includes part of the sprawling post, called the verdict “the beginning of justice being served.”
But Williams, who has been working with Carter to make shooting victims eligible for a wider range of benefits, said it’s time for the Obama administration to classify the rampage as an act of terrorism rather than workplace violence.
“Hasan admitted to shooting his fellow soldiers, saying he switched sides in what he called a U.S. war on Islam. Leading up to the trial, he told potential jurors that he supports the Taliban and Sharia law,” Williams said.
U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, said Carter has his support in the effort to win broader benefits for the victims.
“We must now continue our work to ensure that those killed and wounded at Fort Hood receive the same benefits and honors as their counterparts who are wounded or killed in an overseas combat zone or in a declared terrorist attack,” he said.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also said the victims deserve to be recognized for their sacrifice.
"We must turn our attention to ensuring that the victims of this horrible tragedy and their families receive the full honors and benefits bestowed upon soldiers who are wounded or killed in overseas combat zones,” he said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Hasan’s attack “was a deliberate act of terror against our country.”
“This guilty verdict affirms we are a nation of laws, honors the victims of this heinous act, and proves that, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, we will never waver from the core principles for which they gave their lives: freedom, liberty and democracy,” he said.
Over the course of more than two weeks, the panel heard testimony from nearly 90 witnesses.
Hasan is representing himself, but spoke rarely during the proceedings and questioned only three of the witnesses.
On Wednesday he rested his case without calling any witnesses or taking the stand himself.
Military prosecutors told jurors in closing arguments Thursday that Hasan planned the attack that left 13 dead and more than 30 injured.
Hasan, who’s representing himself, chose not to argue his case.
Prosecutor, Col. Steve Henricks, asked jurors during his closing argument Thursday to convict Maj. Nidal Hasan unanimously of premeditated murder, which would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
He said there’s no doubt the Army psychiatrist carried out the attack.
He said Hasan asked for the highest-tech weapon available when he went to a gun store a few months before the attack and then began practicing with it.
Hasan also used laser sights, which Henricks says "established intent to kill."
Henricks asked the panel to consider the fact that Hasan was carrying 420 rounds of ammunition.
"That was not a combat load, but a kill load, because he knew what he was going to do at station 13, a station that he made into his personal kill section," Henricks said.
Station 13 is where many soldiers died.
On Nov. 5, 2009, soldiers filled 45 chairs in the approximately 19-by-10-foot area.
It's where witnesses said Hasan sat with his head down before he stood up, yelled "Allahu, Akbar!" and then opened fire on them.