(MCT) FORT HOOD, Texas — A jury of 13 high-ranking Army officers, after more than three hours of deliberations Thursday, did not reach a verdict in the court martial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who faces the death penalty on 45 counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder. They will resume deliberations Friday morning.
Before retiring for the day, jurors asked to hear again the written statement of former Fort Hood officer Mark Todd, who was unable to testify in person because of an unspecified medical condition. Todd, who ended the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage by shooting and paralyzing Hasan, was the only person mentioned in 32 attempted murder charges who was not shot by Hasan.
Earlier Thursday, Hasan, who is acting as his own attorney, declined to present a closing argument. A day earlier, he similarly declined to put on a single witness to testify on his behalf.
In their 90-minute closing argument, prosecutors told jurors Hasan planned his attack for months, buying a powerful semiautomatic handgun and practicing regularly at a local shooting range. He also made threats in the weeks before the shooting that should Army officials try to deploy him to war, “they would pay,” prosecutor Col. Steve Henricks told jurors.
Henricks said Hasan picked the medical soldier readiness processing center because of the large concentration of unarmed soldiers inside. The area where he opened fire, he said, was “the perfect killing station. … You won’t find a more tightly packed group of soldiers.” Henricks said the Army psychiatrist was motivated by an extremist ideology and a desire to avoid his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. He said it was no coincidence that he chose Nov. 5 for the attack, since that’s when he knew the mental health units he would likely deploy with would be at the center.
Henricks argued that Hasan’s shout of “Allahu Akbar” made it “perfectly” clear that he was motivated by a “jihad duty.” “He yelled it so no one could be confused that day, and no one should be confused today,” Henricks told jury members.
Henricks called Hasan’s use of paper towels to muffle the clanking of 16 full magazines in his cargo pant pockets another key indication of Hasan’s premeditation.
He also said the fact that Hasan shot many of his victims while they were lying on the ground showed he had a mission to accomplish.
“These are the results of his training,” he said showing jurors diagrams of gunshot impacts. “With a doctor’s precision, he knew where the vital organs are.” To be eligible for the death penalty, Hasan must be unanimously convicted of premeditated murder as well as at least one other murder charge. Jurors could convict Hasan of unpremeditated murder, which only requires a two-thirds vote of the jury panel, but military experts consider that unlikely.
Jurors were paying extremely careful attention to the case Thursday, catching a spelling error in the middle name of one of the slain victims on their charge sheets.
Also Thursday, Hasan revealed that he does not know how much his military salary is. His continued military pay — about $7,000 per month — has stirred considerable anger among victims and family members and sparked a congressional effort to change Army rules that allow continued salary payments until conviction. Asked to look over his personal data on a court document, Hasan said he thought his stated pay was incorrect. “I’m not sure,” he told judge Col. Tara Osborn. “I honestly don’t know.”
©2013 Austin American-Statesman, Texas
Distributed by MCT Information Services