FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The standby attorney for the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting told a judge Wednesday that Nidal Malik Hasan appears intent on receiving a death sentence.
Kris Poppe said he is willing to step in and defend Hasan, who is representing himself at his trial and has attorneys on standby if needed. But if Hasan continues to work toward being executed, Poppe asked that his responsibilities as co-counsel be minimized.
It is “clear his goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty and is working toward a death penalty,” Poppe said.
In response, Hasan said: “I object. That’s a twist of the facts.” The judge then cleared the courtroom and recessed for the day. The trial will resume Thursday.
Hasan acknowledges killing 13 of his fellow soldiers on a military base in one of the country’s worst mass shootings. More witnesses were expected Wednesday to describe the moments when soldiers preparing to deploy to Afghanistan were gunned down.
He had wanted to plead guilty to the 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, but military rules forbid guilty pleas in death penalty cases.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim who was paralyzed after being shot by officers responding to the attack, has compared himself to a soldier who switched sides. He describes it as a war between the U.S. and his Islamic faith. The shooting happened about three weeks after Hasan learned he would be deployed to Afghanistan.
“The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter,” Hasan said in an opening statement Tuesday that lasted little more than a minute. He then fell silent for most of the day.
Hasan had wanted to argue that he carried out the shooting in “defense of others,” namely members of the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan, but the judge denied that strategy. His defense strategy still remains unclear.
Prosecutors described Hasan on the day of the shooting as armed with two handguns and carrying paper towels in his pants pockets to conceal the sounds of rattling ammunition.
Hasan spent time at a shooting range and purchased a pistol and extender kit to hold more ammunition before carrying out his plan to “kill as many soldiers as he could” while avoiding civilians, Col. Steve Henricks told jurors.
On the day of the attack, Hasan sat among his fellow soldiers who were preparing to go overseas. He tried to clear the area of civilians.
“He came to believe he had a jihad duty to murder his fellow soldiers,” Henricks said.
No U.S. soldier has been executed since 1961, and military prosecutors are trying to make no mistakes that could jeopardize any conviction.
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