Fort Hood Shooter Faces Death Penalty

Major Nidal Hasan, the terrorist turncoat who murdered fourteen people at Ft. Hood in November 2009, will face a court martial and the death penalty.

Yes, that’s right, fourteen.  One of the soldiers Hasan gunned down, Francheska Velez, was six weeks pregnant.  Never forget.

Fox News reports the reaction of Hasan’s defense team:

Hasan’s lead attorney, John Galligan, had urged the commanding general not to seek the death penalty, saying such cases were more costly, time-consuming and restrictive.  In cases where death is not a punishment option for military jurors, soldiers convicted of capital murder are automatically sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Galligan told Fox News on Wednesday that it has long been the “intent” of the Army to treat Hasan this way.  He also said he was “surprised” and “disturbed” that the news media learned of the decision before he and his client did. 

According to Fox News, Hasan will be obliged to plead “not guilty.”  That will be a tough job for his attorneys, since a zillion people saw him gunning his fellow soldiers down, and two of the witnesses – police sergeants Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd – shot and handcuffed him.  They were given medals at a one-year anniversary commemoration last November.  “Mighty Mouse” Munley, by the way, has recovered from the wounds she suffered during her action, and is back on duty.

No, I think “not guilty” is just plain off the table here.  Unless, of course, we add “by reason of insanity.”  Hasan’s lawyer has “declined to say whether he is considering an insanity defense for his client,” and has “refused to disclose results of a military mental health panel’s evaluation.” 

Fox News sums up the current state of affairs for the former psychiatrist:

Hasan was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police the day of the rampage. He remains jailed in the Bell County Jail, which houses defendants for nearby Fort Hood.

Hasan has attended several brief court hearings and an evidentiary hearing last fall that lasted about two weeks. He sometimes took notes and showed no reaction as 56 witnesses testified, including more than two dozen soldiers who survived gunshot wounds.

Witnesses testified that a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — which is Arabic for “God is great!” — and started shooting in a small but crowded medical building where deploying soldiers get vaccines and other tests. The gunman fired rapidly, pausing only to reload, even shooting some people as they hid under tables or fled the building, witnesses said. Witnesses say the gunman fatally shot two people who tried to stop him by throwing chairs, and killed three soldiers who were protecting civilian nurses, according to testimony.

The gunman was identified as Hasan, an American-born Muslim who was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan the following month. Before the attack, Hasan bought a laser-equipped semiautomatic handgun and repeatedly visited a firing range, where he honed his skills by shooting at the heads on silhouette targets, witnesses testified during the hearing.

The alternative to the death penalty was life in prison without parole.  The capital case will ostensibly be more difficult and expensive to pursue, but in this case, I think it’s worth the effort.   Our system needs to go on the record about whether it views Nidal Hasan as a random lunatic, or an illegal enemy combatant.  It is not healthy to leave that question perpetually unanswered.