FORT HOOD, Texas - He had admitted to being the shooter, dozens of witnesses identified him as the shooter. But since Nov. 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan has, by law, been innocent of the shooting rampage at Fort Hood that killed 13 people.
That innocence officially ended Friday when a jury found him guilty on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Any relief or emotion evoked by the verdict was not seen in the courtroom, because Judge Tara Osborn would not allow it. Before the verdict was read, she warned everyone to keep their feelings in check.
But that order could only delay the hugs and tears that were shed once they exited the courtroom.
Meanwhile, Hasan barely moved at all.
“He looked over (at the jury) and looked back,” said courtroom sketch artist Brigitte Woosley about Hasan’s demeanor before the verdict was read. “The rest of the time he just stared straight ahead. Didn’t flinch or move.”
It may have been because, for all the anticipation, Friday’s verdict was expected.
An overwhelming amount of evidence plus Hasan’s own admission would have made anything less than 45 guilty verdicts a stunner.
On Monday morning, the sentencing phase will begin and the same jury panel will have to make another decision which is not near the formality of guilt/innocence.
Does Hasan deserve to live or die?
A death sentence became an option when the jury unanimously voted him guilty on at least one premeditated murder charge.
In order to hand down a death sentence, all 13 members of the jury panel must agree death is an appropriate punishment for Hasan’s crime.
During a pre-sentencing hearing outside the presence of the panel, Judge Osborn once again warned Hasan about the risks involved with the decision to represent himself, especially during a death penalty proceeding.
“I am in no way second-guessing your decision to go pro se,” said Osborn, who again gave Hasan a chance to reconsider. “I said it earlier and I will say it again, I think it is unwise for you to represent yourself.”
When asked if he wanted to proceed with his pro se status, Hasan answered “I do.”
The sentencing phase could last up to another week.
The Texas Land Commissioner announced a plans Friday to change state rules to give combat benefits to the families of the Fort Hood victims.
Jerry Patterson called the victims "casualties of war" and vowed to change the rules to give their families full access to state Veterans Land Board benefits.
He said, quote, "We'll let the lawyers work out the details, but I intend to make sure we honor their sacrifice."
Veterans Land Board benefits include low-interest loans to buy homes or land, as well as access to long-term care facilities and state veterans cemeteries.
Since the Fort Hood shootings, Hasan has continued to collect his military pay. It adds up to about $300,000.
As a result of the verdict, Hasan could be forced to give up that money according to military code.
A soldier who is court-martialed has to forfeit pay starting 14-days after being sentenced. However, the judge can order a convicted soldier to pay a fine to collect that money.
The case timeline
In the weeks leading up to the trial for Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, there was an anticipation that the long delayed trial would last at least one month and possibly more.
But just 16 days after it began, the jury panel began their deliberations on Thursday afternoon.
In that time, they were presented mountains of evidence, witnesses, and testimony all while Hasan said very little. That trend continued during closing arguments on Thursday morning.
The prosecution spent 90 minutes reminding the jury of the evidence in a closing statement that featured 911 calls, dash cam video, and crime scene pictures from the Nov. 5, 2009 attack.
When given his chance at a statement, Hasan once again decided to remain silent.
Judge Tara Osborn, an Army colonel, denied the objection and said the pictures served only to help members with their memory since they heard from 89 government witnesses.
Osborn defined premeditation to the jury as “the formation of specific intent to kill and consideration of the act intended to bring about death. The formation of that intent must precede the act that constitutes the attempt.”
The government spent much of their closing argument trying to prove that premeditation.
They pointed to Hasan’s visit to Guns Galore where he asked for the highest capacity handgun on the market along with trips to a local gun range where he used human silhouettes as targets rather than bullseyes.
The prosecution told the panel Hasan had two motivations that would prove premeditation; to stop from being deployed and to fight a jihad war against American soldiers.
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