‘Joy and tears’ as Hasan found guilty
FT. HOOD, Texas -- Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was convicted Friday on all 45 charges of premeditated and attempted premeditated murder in the shooting rampage at this central Texas Army post four years ago, the deadliest attack on a domestic U.S. military base.
The former Army psychiatrist now faces a possible death sentence.
The military jury of 13 officers deliberated about six hours on the case, ending a two-week trial in which Hasan represented himself, admitted to the shooting and largely declined to present a defense.
Prosecutors argued that the radical religious beliefs of Hasan, an American-born Muslim, led him to attack deploying soldiers. Witnesses testified that he shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, before he opened fire at a medical processing center.
The shooting on Nov. 5, 2009, left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded, many of whom testified about the carnage during the court-martial. Hasan, 42, faced 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder.
The same jury that convicted Hasan will sentence him, with pre-sentencing hearings set to begin on Monday. In order for Hasan to receive the death penalty, the jury’s vote on that punishment must be unanimous. Relatives of those killed in the shootings are expected to testify at the hearings.
Before the jury delivered the guilty verdicts Friday, a few tense minutes of anticipation gripped the courtroom.
The military judge, Col. Tara Osborn, cautioned those in the audience “to keep the proper decorum and show the respect for the judicial system and for the court,” acknowledging that a verdict “can provoke powerful emotions.”
She told those in the gallery -- including victims’ relatives -- to leave if they could not resist showing signs of “agreement or disagreement with the panel’s findings.”
The bailiff called jury back at 12:34 p.m. CDT
“Has the panel reached its findings?” Osborn asked.
The jury president, or foreman, a female colonel and the highest-ranking member of the group, replied: “Yes ma’am.”
She handed the findings to the judge, who then handed them back for her to read at 12:35 p.m.
Hasan stared at the colonel as she read the charges.
“Nidal Malik Hasan, the panel has reached by a unanimous vote a verdict of guilty,” she said.
Hasan remained impassive as the verdict was read, then looked down.
Victims’ relatives sitting in three rows of the gallery remained quiet as the verdict was read. Afterward, there were small signs of emotion -- one placed a hand on another’s shoulder, another slipped on sunglasses to hide her tears. Many had tears in their eyes as they left court.
Kimberly Munley, a Ft. Hood police sergeant who was wounded when she traded gunfire with Hasan and who testified during the trial, tweeted her joy at the verdict.
“So overwhelmed with joy and tears!!!! ... God Bless the victims in their strength,” Munley wrote.
Munley and other victims have sued the government in federal court in an attempt to classify the attack as terrorism. An attorney representing them released a statement calling the verdict “only a first, small step down the path of justice for the victims.”
“The terrorist Hasan’s conviction and sentencing is only the beginning, not the end of this story,” Reed Rubinstein said, “Justice for the victims of Fort Hood will be done only when the government admits its mistakes, keeps its promises to ‘make the victims whole’ and comes clean about Ft. Hood. The victims, and the American people, are owed nothing less.”
Later Friday, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas released a statement siding with the victims.
“The victims and families have had to wait for far too long for today’s decision, but I hope they can take some relief in today’s outcome,” the Republican lawmaker said, adding that “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.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in statement that “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.”
Retired Army Sgt. Howard Ray, 33, of Killeen, who received an Army Commendation Medal for carrying nine people to safety during the shootings, said he was pleased with the verdict but eager to see Hasan sentenced to death.
He also said he’s glad some victims will be able to speak directly to Hasan and “have the last say.”
“What’s important for us to focus on is the sentencing,” Ray said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get justice then as well.”
[For the record: 7:53 p.m., Aug. 23: An earlier version of this post incorrectly quoted the jury president, or foreman, announcing the jury’s verdict. The correct quote is “Nidal Malik Hasan, the panel has reached by a unanimous vote a verdict of guilty.”]
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