FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - Some still have bullets from the attack inside their bodies. But the survivors of the Nov. 5, 2009 ,shooting returned to Fort Hood to testify against Major Nidal Hasan and help paint a detailed picture of that day.
“Somebody stood up and yelled ‘Allah Akbar’ and then a gun was pointed at my head” said Capt. Brandy Mason. “I thought ‘are you kidding me? Training in the middle of SRP?’”
Almost all of the nearly three dozen witnesses testifying about the attack said they thought the initial gunfire was simply a training exercise.
For some, not even getting shot was enough for them to realize what was going on.
“It was so powerful, it knocked me to the ground,” said Staff Sgt. Paul Martin. But even still, he thought the gunshot was a simulated round.
“I was thinking, how are we going to get our uniform clean?" Martin recalled. "We are about to deploy and we are getting hit with paintballs.”
Of the 17 soldiers who testified Friday most say the reality did not set in until they saw blood and bodies began falling to the ground.
Martin hit the ground and pretended to play dead, but he said Hasan was firing very quickly and aiming at people lying on the ground to ensure their death.
“I remember saying, ‘We have got to get out of this building or we are going to die,’” he said.
Martin was one of 32 people who were shot, but survived the attack. He said he was temporarily paralyzed by a bullet that hit him in the back, but he regained feeling in his legs and made it out of the building.
He has undergone four surgeries since that day.
Law professor and former Judge Advocate Richard Rosen has helped provide legal analysis to media members covering the trial.
He says that while each survivor’s testimony is individually different, they all contain key consistencies that align and make the vision of what happened inside the Soldier Readiness Processing building much more clear.
“They are painting a picture of bedlam. A really horrific scene,” said Rosen, who believes such a vivid picture could figure into the panel’s decision on a possible death sentence for Hasan.
“It not only goes to the findings, but sets the ground for punishment,” he said.
Soldiers have consistently testified that a smoke screen from the gunfire filled the room amid a lot of screaming. Most people in the SRP hit the ground to crawl and hide.
And red and green laser sights from Hasan’s handgun lit up the darkened building like a laser light show.
Bullets and bullet fragments taken from survivor’s bodies have been presented as evidence while they testify about the impact of the injuries they suffered.
Most testified in a very composed manner while only occasionally a voice would crack when talking about fallen colleagues.
Hasan has yet to cross-examine any surviving witnesses.
“I’m sure they have been playing it in their mind ever since,” Rosen commented about the detail in which the soldiers testify to nearly four-year-old events.
“This was a moment everyone would remember.”
Rosen thinks even more emotional testimony could be yet to come.
“You are going to hear from the families and about their loss and aggravation. It will be very emotional.”
Through one week, the government has already gone through 44 witnesses, the majority of which were shooting survivors.
Because Hasan is not objecting or asking many questions, testimony has moved at a faster than expected pace.
Judge Tara Osborn predicted before the trial that it would take more than a month to hear all the evidence.
Defense attorneys excused for one day
Osborn and Hasan agreed to let two of three defense counsel members be excused Friday so they could prepare a writ protesting their order to continue serving on the case.
Col. Kris Poppe remained by Hasan’s side Friday, but the writ is being filed after he and counsel filed a motion to be removed from the case or have their roles modified.
They argued that they feel Hasan is trying to intentionally seek the death penalty and assisting him violates a defense attorneys rules of conduct.
Osborn denied the motion and said their ethical concerns are not warranted and actually nothing more than a disagreement with Hasan’s strategy.
Hasan said Poppe’s assertion was a “twist of the facts.”
All three members of the defense counsel have been ordered by the judge to be present when the trial resumes on Monday morning.
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