AUGUST 24, FORT HOOD, TEXAS: A military jury has convicted a US army psychiatrist in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, making him eligible for the death penalty.
There was never any doubt that Major Nidal Hasan was the gunman.
He acknowledged to the jury that he was the one who pulled the trigger on fellow US soldiers as they prepared to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded.
Hasan, who said he opened fire on fellow soldiers to protect Muslim insurgents abroad from US aggression, did not react to the verdict, looking straight at jurors as they announced their findings on Friday.
After the hearing, relatives of the dead and wounded fought back tears.
Because Hasan never denied his actions, the court-martial was always less about a conviction than it was about ensuring he received the death penalty.
From the beginning of the case, the federal government has sought to execute Hasan, believing that any sentence short of a lethal injection would deprive the military and the families of the dead of the justice they have sought for nearly four years.
The unanimous decision on all 13 counts of premeditated murder made Hasan eligible for execution in the sentencing phase that begins on Monday.
The jurors must all agree to give Hasan the death penalty before he can be sent to the military’s death row, which has just five other prisoners.
If they do not agree, the 42-year-old could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Hasan said he planned to continue representing himself in the sentencing phase, even though the military judge, Colonel Tara Osborn told him it was unwise to do so.
Hasan, a US-born Muslim, said the attack was a jihad against his country’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He bristled when Osborn suggested the shooting rampage could have been avoided were it not for a spontaneous flash of anger.
‘‘It wasn’t done under the heat of sudden passion,’’ Hasan said before jurors began deliberating.
‘‘There was adequate provocation - that these were deploying soldiers that were going to engage in an illegal war.’’
Hasan was left paralysed from the waist down after being shot in the back by one of the Fort Hood police officers who responded to the rampage.
He now uses a wheelchair.
The sentencing phase is expected to begin with more testimony from survivors of the attack inside an army medical centre where soldiers were waiting in long lines to receive immunisations and medical clearance for deployment.
Hasan began the trial by telling jurors he was the gunman but he said little else over the next three weeks, which convinced his court-appointed standby lawyers that Hasan’s only goal was to get a death sentence.
Death sentences are rare in the military and trigger automatic appeals that take decades to play out.
No US soldier has been executed since 1961. - AP