FORT HOOD, Texas (KXAN) - The jury in Fort Hood sentenced Nidal Hasan to death on Wednesday for the murder of 13 people on Fort Hood in November 2009.
Moments after the unanimous ruling from the jury was read, Col. Tara Osborn declared the trial adjourned and slammed her judge's gavel ending a trial that lasted 17 days, but only nearly 18 months of delays.
A family of Michael Cahill, one of Hasan's victims, told reporters that "the house of grief is large with a lot of rooms," but now they get to close the door on at least one of those rooms. Many praised the quickly reached sentence as an act of justice after four years of pain.
The sentence also dismisses Hasan from the Army and orders him to forfeit pay allowances. At the time he opened fire, Hasan was an Army psychiatrist and had attained the rank of major.
Now after serving 1,389 days in the Bell County Jail, he is headed to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and death row.
The American-born Muslim had no reaction as the sentence was read. He could become the first American to be executed for a military crime since 1961. The death sentence will be automatically appealed so an execution date is far from being set and is likely years away.
Before the sentencing phase ended on Wednesday, Col. Michael Mulligan slowly and deliberately delivered a 45-minute closing statement that began with one word.
A word that was then repeated several times for the jury panel to ponder.
“He was trained as a doctor to save lives, but on November 5th, he dealt only death,” said Mulligan. “He dealt no compassion, he dealt no understanding, he dealt no exceptions. He dealt only death.”
Death is now the decision a jury must decide for Maj. Nidal Hasan, the 42-year-old Army psychiatrist who shot and killed 13 people while wounding 31 more in the 2009 attack on Fort Hood. The jury was sent to deliberate the sentence at 11 a.m.
Given the opportunity to make a closing statement of his own, Hasan remained silent and willing to go quietly into whatever he is dealt.
Mulligan spent the better part of his closing statement going through each of the 13 murder victims and talking about their lives, their military service, and the void that has been left in their families.
“Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will now be a day of sadness,” said Mulligan about the children who lost a parent. “A reminder of the love and affection they never had the chance to receive.”
He reminded the jury of Francheska Velez, the pregnant soldier whose final words were “my baby, my baby!”
He reminded them of Michael Cahill, John Gaffney, and Fred Greene who charged Hasan, unarmed and unafraid, through a barrage of bullets in an attempt to save others.
And he reminded them of rooms and items that have sat untouched for the past four years.
Rooms that have been waiting for a soldier that will never return.
In order for Hasan to receive the death penalty, all 13 jurors must unanimously agree on that punishment. The decision is not considered a sure thing due to a perceived belief that Hasan wants to die to become a martyr.
Mulligan addressed that, as well when the discussion of death turned away from that of the soldiers and towards the possibility of Hasan’s.
“Do not offer what you don’t own. Never give what is not yours. He will not be a martyr because he has nothing to give,” said Mulligan in the final minute of his statement.
“He is not giving his life. We are taking his life. He is not now and he will never be a martyr. He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer.”
The jury panel was told they would have to determine how much value they place on a life, two lives, and for 13 lives.
The worth of an arm, the use of an eye, a child’s life without a father or mother.
“Today will be his day of reckoning. One voice will announce the sentence. One voice speaking for 13. Let it be strong, let it be unwavering, let it be a sentence to death.”
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