Ft. Hood shooter rests defense, doesn’t testify or call witnesses
FT. HOOD, Texas — The Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 in a mass shooting on this Army base nearly four years ago declined to testify or to call witnesses in his defense Wednesday.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 42, has been representing himself at his court martial for the last two weeks. Military legal experts had not expected Hasan to testify, because he would be limited to answering questions and subject to cross-examination by prosecutors.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 of attempted premeditated murder in connection with the Nov. 5, 2009, attack.
Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday. They argued that before the shooting, Hasan, an American-born Muslim, had been trying to avoid deployment to Afghanistan and was motivated by radical religious beliefs to plot and kill soldiers, although the trial judge The military judge, Col. Tara Osborn, refused to admit much of the prosecution’s evidence regarding Hasan’s motive.
Hasan has admitted to the shooting, but defended his actions, saying he attacked deploying soldiers to protect Taliban leaders overseas, an argument the judge ruled Hasan could not use as a defense.
Prosecutors called nearly 90 witnesses, but Hasan had listed just two possible defense witnesses: Tim Jon Semmerling, a lawyer and mitigation expert, and Lewis Rambo, a professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary considered an expert on religious conversion.
Last week, Hasan removed Semmerling from his witness list after the judge made clear that prosecutors would be able to review Hasan’s previous communications with the expert. On Tuesday, Hasan said he had removed Rambo from the list, too.
The judge, however, required both experts to be on hand Wednesday, in case Hasan changed his mind. Before summoning the jury, she asked Hasan whether he had met with Rambo. He said he had. Osborn also double-checked that Semmerling was present, and reminded Hasan that he could still call them both as witnesses. Hasan said he understood.
Then the judge called the jury in.
“Maj. Hasan, you may proceed,” she said.
“Defense rests,” Hasan said.
It was over in a matter of seconds.
“You have now heard all the evidence in this case,” the judge said, and directed jurors to leave as she consulted both sides about jury instructions.
Hasan conferred with his military legal advisors before requesting that the jury of 13 officers, all of his rank or higher, be instructed about his decision not to testify. The two sides then discussed what lesser included offenses would be submitted to the jury.
Although the jury was released for the day, the judge said she would continue hearings Wednesday in preparation for closing arguments Thursday morning. Among other issues she is expected to review with the parties is evidence submitted in the case. Prosecutors presented hundreds of pieces of evidence including photographs of Hasan at the shooting scene and bullets removed from the wounded and the dead. Hasan submitted only one piece of evidence -- a positive performance evaluation he received before the shooting from a supervisor at Ft. Hood.
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